Gaza-Israel border: Clashes ‘leave five Palestinians dead and hundreds injured’

Gaza-Israel border: Clashes ‘leave five Palestinians dead and hundreds injured’

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BY BBC NEWS,30TH MARCH 2018-Palestinians in Gaza have marched in their thousands to the Israel border at the start of a six-week protest.

The Palestinian health ministry says at least eight people have been killed and 750 wounded, many of them by Israeli gunfire.

The Israeli military reported “rioting” at six places and said it was “firing towards main instigators”.

Palestinians have pitched five camps near the border for the protest, dubbed the Great March of Return.

They are demanding that refugees be allowed to return to homes that are now in Israel.

What is the latest at the border?

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said there were about 17,000 Palestinians in five locations along the border fence.

The IDF said troops were “firing towards the main instigators” to break up rioting that included the burning of tyres and the throwing of Molotov cocktails and stones at the fence.

Israel has deployed tanks and snipers and is using tear gas to force Palestinians away from the border.

The IDF said it had “enforced a closed military zone” in the area surrounding Gaza.

Palestinian health officials said that a 16-year-old boy was among the dead.

They said that one person was killed before Friday’s protest started. Omar Samour, a 27-year-old farmer, was killed by Israeli tank fire near Khan Yunis.

Israeli soldiers maintained a close watch on the border protests.
Map showing the position of the five protest camps. Source: Haaretz.

Another man was wounded in that incident.

Witnesses say the two men were collecting parsley in a field, BBC Gaza producer Rushdi Abualouf reports.

Relatives of farmer Omar Samour grieve at a hospital in southern Gaza

Hamas, the militant group that dominates the Gaza Strip, has accused Israel of trying to intimidate Palestinians by killing the farmer and by urging them not to participate in the protests.

Addressing protesters, Hamas senior political leader Ismail Haniyeh said “we will not concede a single inch of the land of Palestine”.

He said: “There is no alternative to Palestine and no solution except to return.”

The Jerusalem Post also reported a rare public appearance by the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yehiya Sinwar.

What have the Israelis said?

The Israeli military oversees a no-go zone along the Gaza border, citing security concerns, and has doubled its troop presence for the protest. It fears the protest could be an attempt at a mass breach of the border.

Palestinians march to mark Land Day east of Gaza City.

Israeli commander Maj Gen Eyal Zamir said: “We are identifying attempts to carry out terror attacks under the camouflage of riots. We urge citizens to stay away and warn the Hamas terror organisation, which is responsible for the violent riots and everything taking places under its auspices.”

The IDF also accused Hamas of endangering a seven-year-old girl by sending her across the border.

It said that Israeli troops, “realising she was a child”, safely returned the girl to her family. It accused Hamas of “cynically” using women and children, “sending them to the security fence and endangering their lives”.

On the tank fire incident in Khan Yunis, an Israeli military spokesman said that “two suspects approached the security fence and began operating suspiciously and the tank fired towards them”.

The Israeli foreign ministry has said the protest is a “deliberate attempt to provoke a confrontation with Israel” and that “responsibility for any clashes lies solely with Hamas and other participating Palestinian organisations”.

Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman took the unusual step of tweeting in Arabic, accusing Hamas of playing with citizens’ lives and warning people not to take part.

What is the protest about?

Palestinians have erected five main camp areas along the Israel border for the protest, from Beit Hanoun in the north to Rafah near the Egyptian border.

An injured protester is evacuated from Jabaliya

The Great March of Return protests were starting on Friday, as 30 March marks Land Day, which commemorates the killing of six protesters by Israeli security forces during demonstrations over land confiscation in 1976.

The protest is scheduled to end on 15 May, which Palestinians call Nakba (catastrophe) and which marks the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the conflict surrounding the creation of Israel in 1948.

Palestinians have long demanded their right to return but Israel says they should settle in a future Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank.

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