Thursday 19 April 2018

Palestinians streaming toward Gaza border protest camps

More than a dozen protesters were killed and hundreds injured by Israeli fire last week.

Palestinian protesters (Adel Hana/AP)
Palestinian protesters (Adel Hana/AP)

By Fares Akram

Palestinians are flocking to tent camps along the Gaza-Israel border ahead of what the territory’s Hamas rulers hope will be the second mass protest in a week.

As Israel and the Hamas-led protesters geared up for another showdown along the border fence, concerns grew about more bloodshed. Last week, more than a dozen protesters were killed and hundreds injured by Israeli fire, Gaza health officials said.

Just before Muslim noon prayers on Friday, hundreds of people arrived at one of the tent camps, near the community of Khuzaa.

Activists plan to burn large numbers of tyres in hopes that thick black smoke will block the view of Israeli snipers deployed on the other side of the border.

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Protesters hide behind smoke from burning tyres (Adel Hana/AP)

At one point on Friday, Israeli forces fired tear gas inside the encampment, briefly sending people fleeing.

Protesters also moved toward other camps, including east of Gaza City, where a senior Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, greeted the crowd. Nearby, smoke from burning tyres rose into the sky.

Friday’s march is the second in what Gaza’s Hamas rulers said would be several weeks of protests against a decade-old border blockade of the territory.

Israel has accused Hamas of trying to carry out border attacks under the cover of large protests and said it will prevent a breach of the fence at all costs.

Israel’s defence minister has warned that protesters approaching the border fence endanger their lives, drawing condemnation from rights groups that said such seemingly broad open-fire rules are unlawful.

A leading Israeli rights group, B’Tselem, issued a rare appeal to soldiers to refuse “grossly illegal” orders to fire at unarmed protesters.

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Palestinian protesters carry away a wounded youth (Adel Hana/AP)

Last Friday, thousands of Gaza residents participated in the demonstration, many gathering in five tent encampments set up along the narrow coastal strip’s border with Israel, several hundred metres from the fence.

Smaller groups, mostly young men, rushed forward, throwing stones, hurling firebombs and burning tyres and drawing Israeli fire.

In all, 22 Palestinians were killed in Gaza over the past week, including 16 involved in last Friday’s protests, according to Gaza health officials.

The six other deaths included three gunmen killed in what Israel said were attempts to attack the border and three men who were struck by Israeli tank fire.

Press Association

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