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Wednesday 20 November 2019

Hundreds hurt amid deadly response by Israeli forces during Gaza protests

More than 500 people have been hurt after Israeli troops responded to protests with live gunfire and teargas.

Palestinian protestors runs from teargas (AP)
Palestinian protestors runs from teargas (AP)

By Fares Akram

Two Palestinian protesters have been killed and more than 500 others have been injured by Israeli forces during protests along the Gaza border, health officials have said.

The Gaza health ministry said the two men died after being shot earlier on Friday.

It said a total of 525 people have been wounded at the protest over the course of the day – 92 of them by live fire.

Witnesses said one of the men was shot close to the fence where he was throwing stones at soldiers.

Tens of teargas canisters fired by Israeli troops fall over Palestinian protesters (AP)

Israel said it is defending its sovereign border, including nearby communities, and has accused Hamas of trying to carry out attacks under the guise of the mass protests. Israel’s use of potentially lethal force against the protesters has drawn international criticism.

At least 115 Palestinian protesters, the vast majority unarmed, have been killed and close to 3,800 have been wounded by Israeli army fire since the marches began in late March.

The march also marked the annual “Jerusalem Day”, an event instituted by Iran to protest Israeli rule of the holy city. Israel and Iran have been arch-enemies since Tehran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

In the capitals of Iran and Iraq, thousands of Shia Muslims marked Jerusalem Day with protests, with some chanting “Death to Israel” or burning Israeli flags and effigies of President Donald Trump.

After Muslim prayers at noon on Friday, thousands of Gaza residents streamed toward five protest tent camps that had been erected more than two months ago, each several hundred yards from the fence. From there, smaller groups walked closer to it.

Hundreds of Palestinians were hurt (AP)

In a camp east of Gaza City, activists burned tyres, releasing black smoke. Others threw stones or flew kites with burning rags attached, aiming to send them over the border and set Israeli fields on fire.

Israeli troops fired volleys of tear gas, including from drones, that sent protesters running for cover.

One man with a loudspeaker shouted: “America is the biggest evil.”

Israeli soldiers fire tear gas at Palestinian protestors (AP)

At one point, seven activists in black-and-white striped shirts meant to resemble concentration camp uniforms from the Second World War approached the fence.

Activist Ahmed Abu Artima said: “We want to remind the world that the Israeli occupation is committing the same massacres that the Nazis committed.”

An farmer plows the field scorched by fire started by a kite with attached burning cloth launched by Palestinians from Gaza (AP)

The mass protests have been aimed at a border blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007, after the Islamic militant group Hamas overran the territory.

The marchers have also pressed demands for a “right of return” for descendants of Palestinian refugees to ancestral homes in what is now Israel.

More than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled in the 1948 war over Israel’s creation. Two thirds of Gaza’s two million residents are descendants of refugees.

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