Palestinian killed and 400 wounded in latest Gaza protest
Israeli army says protesters threw grenades and explosives and used incendiary kites
Tear gas canisters are fired by Israeli forces at Palestinian demonstrators during a protest demanding the right of return, at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza Strip, on Friday. Photograph: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters
At least one Palestinian was killed and more than 400 wounded from live Israeli fire and tear gas on Friday, as some 15,000 Palestinians participated in protests along the Gaza border for the seventh consecutive weekend.
The Israeli army said protesters threw grenades and explosives at troops. It said incendiary kites were also launched, some of which were intercepted by Israeli drones.
Earlier on Friday, three Israeli right-wing activists were arrested after attempting to send an incendiary kite into Gaza. The kite fell inside Israel, where it started a small brush fire. Similar crude devices launched by Palestinians have caused dozens of fires and significant damage to crops on the Israeli side of the border over recent weeks.
The Gaza organisers of the March of Return dubbed this weekend’s demonstrations a “preparation and warning of what’s to come”, marking this as the last Friday before the protest peaks on Monday and Tuesday.
Next week’s climax will focus on the US embassy move to Jerusalem, taking place on Monday, and commemorating Nakba (catastrophe) day, when Palestinians mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel and the birth of the Palestinian refugee problem.
The Hamas leader in Gaza, Yaha Sinwar, said he hoped to see hundreds of thousands of Palestinians breach the border fence next week. He claimed that Israel’s borders were not internationally recognised and did not have to be respected.
“What’s the problem if hundreds of thousands storm this fence which is not a border of a state? What’s the problem with that?” he said.
In a news conference in Gaza on Thursday he said repeatedly that he hoped to avoid bloodshed, but gave no indication that Hamas would try to hold back the expected large crowds. He stressed that the protesters would be unarmed and peaceful, but also likened them to a “starving tiger”, saying the residents of Gaza were so desperate that their actions were impossible to predict.
Israel says it will defend its border, and accuses Hamas of exploiting civilians and trying to use the border clashes as a cover to stage militant attacks.
Israeli fire has killed 44 Palestinians and wounded some 1,700 since the protests began on March 30th. The Hamas-led demonstrations are aimed at breaking the decade-long Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the coastal strip.
The United Nations and the European Union have accused Israel of using excessive force against unarmed protesters. Despite the criticism and a court case brought by rights groups to Israel’s high court, the army has refused to change its rules of engagement.
Senior Palestine Liberation Organisation official Ahmad Majdalani said Monday would be a day of rage. “The 14th of this month will be a huge, popular day of rage everywhere,” he said. “Our people will express their rejection of relocating the embassy to occupied Jerusalem.”
US president Donald Trump will deliver a video message for Monday’s embassy-opening ceremony in Jerusalem, and a large delegation of US officials, including Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s son-in-law, will participate in the event.