Three Palestinians killed, hundreds injured in Gaza protests

Israel again responds with lethal force after protesters converge on border fence

 Palestinians carry an injured man during clashes with Israeli security forces near the eastern border of the Gaza Strip on Friday. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

Palestinians carry an injured man during clashes with Israeli security forces near the eastern border of the Gaza Strip on Friday. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

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At least three Palestinians were killed and more than 300 injured as thousands of protesters converged on the Gaza-Israel border for the fifth consecutive Friday, amid growing international condemnation of Israel over the high casualty figures.

The Israeli military said hundreds of protesters tried to set fire to the border fence on Friday but were thwarted by troops after the crowd threw grenades, explosives, firebombs and rocks. Eyewitnesses said three protesters managed to breach the barrier and briefly cross into Israel.

At least 42 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,500 injured from live Israeli fire, according to the Gaza health ministry, during the “Great March of Return”. The protest is aimed at highlighting the longstanding demand for the right of return of Palestinian refugees to towns and villages which their families fled from, or were driven out of, when the state of Israel was created in 1948.

The United Nations has called for an independent investigation of the violence in Gaza. “Every week, we witness instances of use of lethal force against unarmed demonstrators,” the UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said in a statement.

United States ambassador Nikki Haley accused Hamas of using children as cannon fodder.

“Anyone who truly cares about children in Gaza should insist that Hamas immediately stop using children as cannon fodder in its conflict with Israel,” Ms Haley told a UN Security Council meeting.

Nakba

Hamas political bureau director Ismail Haniya said that the “return” marches would peak on May 15th when Palestinians mark the Nakba, or catastrophe, when Israel was established, but would continue afterwards.

“Our people are facing the occupation with a new popular uprising and a march that can be named ‘the mother of all marches’,” he said, adding that the marches have yielded important achievements for the Palestinians, primarily by putting the Palestinian issue back at the forefront of world attention.

The Hamas leader also said that the marches of return would spread to the West Bank.

Israel says Hamas is using the protests as a cover for terrorist activity or attempts to damage the border fence and says it will not permit demonstrators to breach the border. It claims its troops only open fire in self-defence.

Friday’s clashes came a day after thousands of Palestinians joined a mass funeral for Fadi el-Batsh, the rocket and drone expert from Gaza who was gunned down in Malaysia last week in an attack Hamas blamed on the Israeli Mossad.

“The hand that assassinated the scientist will be severed,” Mr Haniya told the mourners at a mosque in Jabaliya, the town in northern Gaza where el-Batsh grew up.

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