Israeli snipers shoot dead seven in latest protests at Gaza border
At least seven Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces on the Gaza border yesterday, as thousands of demonstrators burned tyres to send towers of thick black smoke into the sky.
The deaths mean that 29 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli snipers since Gaza residents last week began the Great March of Return, a series of weekly border protests demanding the right to return to their ancestral homes in what is today Israel.
Around 20,000 Palestinians flocked to five protest sites along the border, according to the Israeli military. More than 1,000 people were injured in clashes with Israeli troops, said the Palestinian health ministry, which is controlled by the Hamas militant group.
Demonstrators burned hundreds of rubber tyres all along the Israeli frontier, creating a wall of smoke which they hoped would blind Israeli marksmen.
Israeli forces used hoses to try to put out the flames and large fans to keep the noxious smoke from blowing into Israel.
The overwhelming majority of the protesters were unarmed and the small handful who did carry weapons were wielding small axes, knives, or heavy shears to try to cut through the Israel fence.
The Israeli military claimed that Hamas operatives had tried to use the chaos of the riots to damage the border fence.
A spokesman said there were at least four attempts to throw improvised bombs towards Israeli forces.
No Israelis were killed or wounded during either yesterday's demonstrations or the clashes last week.
Human rights groups have criticised the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) for its policy of directing sniper fire on those who come too close to the fence.
The protests were less bloody than last week, when 16 Palestinians were killed during the day and others died later from their injuries.
Palestinians at a protest site east of Gaza City said the vast plumes of tyre smoke had also reduced the killings.
"The burning tyres helped us because snipers can't see us." (© Daily Telegraph London)