GAZA BORDER -The protests along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip started Friday for the sixth consecutive week, with Palestinians approaching the fence only to be met with Israeli attempts to disperse them.
According to reports in Gaza, 350 protesters have been wounded since confrontations with Israeli forces started at noon, 148 of whom have been evacuated to hospitals. Of those wounded, 42 sustained wounds from Israeli live fire and 20 from rubber bullets. Three are in critical condition, while 42 others sustained light to moderate wounds. Since the confrontations began on March 30, 45 Palestinians have been killed. The last death came on Thursday.
REUTERS said Youths rolled burning tyres to within 500 meters (yards) of the fence, using the smoke as a screen to counter Israeli sharpshooters on the other side. At least 43 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli army gunfire in the last month.
Protestors said they used slingshots to down a small Israeli observation drone overhead.
An Israeli military spokeswoman had no immediate comment.
As Israel celebrates its 70th birthday, Palestinians mourn what they call the “Nakba” (Catastrophe) of their people’s mass-dispossession during the conflict that broke out in 1948.
Two-thirds of Gaza‘s 2 million Palestinians are war refugees or their descendants. The Gaza protests have seen thousands gather – in greater numbers on Fridays – to demand access to their families’ lost homes or lands, now in Israel.
Israel rules that out, concerned it would lose its Jewish majority. Alternatives, such as accommodating refugees and their descendants in a future Palestinian state, have been discussed in peace talks that date back to 1993 but which are now stalled.
“GIVE US A STATE”
“If it wasn’t for the occupation we would have lived as free as people like in other countries,” said Ahmed, 24, at a protest site east of Gaza City. “If they don’t allow us back, at least they should give us a state.”
The Palestinians and human rights groups, including the United Nations body, have criticised Israel for using live fire against the protesters.
Israel says it is protecting its borders and takes such action only when protesters, some hurling stones and Molotov cocktails trying to lay explosives, come too close to the fence.
Israel says the protests have been organised by Hamas – an Islamist group that controls Gaza and is sworn to Israel’s destruction – to provide cover for attacks, and that most of the dead were militants. Palestinians deny those allegations.
The protests take place at a time of growing frustration as prospects for an independent Palestinian state look poor. While the peace talks are stuck, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories have expanded.
An added focus this year is President Donald Trump’s decision to begin moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem on May 14, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding.
Trump’s moves angered Palestinian leaders, who have refused to talk to his administration, accusing it of pro-Israel bias. Israel’s government celebrated the U.S. decision, saying it recognised the “reality” that Jerusalem was the historic capital of the Jewish people.
Visiting the Middle East earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lent his support to Israel’s handling of the border protests.
“We do believe the Israelis have a right to defend themselves,” he said.