At least four Palestinians killed in further clashes on Gaza border
Over 120 wounded, say Palestinian sources, but number protesting falls significantly
Palestinian medics evacuate a wounded youth during clashes with Israeli troops along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel on Friday. Photograph: Adel Hana/AP
At least four Palestinians were killed and more than 100 wounded, according to Palestinian medical sources, as residents of the Gaza Strip protested for the fourth consecutive Friday along the border with Israel.
Palestinian protesters along the border sent kites over the fence into Israel, including some carrying notes telling Israelis: “There is no place for you in Palestine. ” The Israeli army published an image of one of the kites painted with a swastika.
Early on Friday Israeli planes scattered leaflets along the border warning Palestinians not to approach the border fence as Israeli troops braced for fresh clashes.
“The Hamas terror organization is taking advantage of you in order to carry out terrorist attacks. The IDF is prepared for all scenarios. Stay away from the fence and do not attempt to harm it,” the leaflets stated.
Friday marked the fourth weekend of large-scale protests in Gaza, during which thousands of residents have gathered at locations along the borders with Israel to demand the right of return to what were Palestinian towns and villages before Israel achieved independence in 1948.
The six-week protest is set to end on May 15th, the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, or “catastrophe”, which left hundreds of thousands of Palestinians as refugees.
Some 3,000 protesters turned out on Friday, significantly smaller than the 10,000-15,000 at last Friday’s demonstration. In the two weeks before, there were an estimated 20,000 and 30,000 protesters, respectively.
Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman claimed most of the protesters were paid by Hamas and he said the numbers were down due to the firm stand taken by Israel.
“Thanks to the IDF’s activity, week by week there is a drop in the number of participants in the riots.”
According to Palestinian officials, Israeli soldiers have killed 35 people and injured hundreds more, many by live fire, since the beginning of the weekly demonstrations. Despite international condemnation, the Israeli army has maintained its rules of engagement, determined to stop protesters reaching the border fence.
On Thursday the Islamic Jihad militant group published a video threatening Israeli soldiers ahead of the protests.
The clip showed the group’s operatives looking through the scope of a rifle at Israeli military officers. The video ends with a slide reading, “You’re killing our people in cold blood and think that you’re protected, but our snipers’ sights are on your top commanders.”
Separately, in an apparent sign of concern over the bloodshed on the border, the Israeli-American Hollywood actor Natalie Portman announced she was pulling out of a ceremony in Israel to accept a million-dollar prize because of “distressing” events in the country.
In a statement, the Genesis Prize Foundation quoted a representative for Portman as saying: “Recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel.”
It gave no further details of her reasons. But the foundation said it “admires her humanity, and respects her right to publicly disagree with the policies of the government of Israel”.
Israel’s culture minister, Miri Regev, suggested the actor was supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to isolate Israel economically over its treatment of Palestinians. – Additional reporting Reuters