At least 11 Palestinians were shot and wounded by Israeli troops during fresh violent protests along the Gaza border on Sunday, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said, two days after the region was rocked by a massive demonstration.
The Israel Defense Forces confirmed that live rounds were fired at some of the protesters mentioned by the Gaza health ministry, who it said approached the border fence.
According to the army, some 350 Palestinians took part in Sunday’s demonstrations throughout the coastal enclave. On Friday, 30,000 joined a Hamas-backed mass march, and further mass protests against Israel are planned for this Friday and future weeks until mid-May, when Israel’s marks its 70th Independence Day and the Palestinians what they call Nakba Day — the “catastrophe” caused by Israel’s creation.
Protesters on Sunday burned tires and threw rocks at the Israeli troops on the other side of the border. The Israeli soldiers mostly retaliated with tear gas and rubber bullets, but in some cases fired live rounds at those who approached the security fence, the army said.
According to the Hamas-run health ministry, in northern Gaza, five people were wounded in a protest along the security fence east of Jabaliya; in central Gaza, one was injured one of Gaza City and two east of al-Bureij; and in southern Gaza, two were wounded east of Khan Younis and one near Rafah.
One of the teenagers wounded in Khan Younis was said to be in critical condition. A graphic video from the scene appeared to show that he sustained a head wound.
The army confirmed that soldiers fired live rounds at seven of the 11 rioters — five in northern Gaza and at two in the south.
During Friday’s protests, 12 Palestinians were shot dead by IDF troops. Two more, who were armed with AK-47 assault rifles and hand grenades, were killed as they opened fire at Israeli soldiers and tried to breach the security fence. In addition, one Palestinian man was killed earlier on Friday morning, before the start of the protests.
The Israel Defense Forces said Saturday that at least 10 of those killed — the Gazans reported a death toll of 15 — were members of Palestinian terror groups, including Hamas and gave details of their roles.
As of Saturday evening, Hamas, a terrorist group that openly seeks to destroy Israel, itself acknowledged that five of the dead in the so-called “March of Return” were its own gunmen.
The Gaza health ministry reported that over 1,000 people were injured during the Friday protests, more than half by Israeli gunfire, the rest from tear gas and rubber bullets. These figures could not be independently verified. Israeli officials said they were inflated.
According to the army, in keeping with its rules of engagement, the Palestinians who were shot Friday were either attacking IDF soldiers with stones and Molotov cocktails, were actively trying to damage the security fence, or were attempting to place improvised explosive devices along the security fence, which could later be used in attacks against Israeli patrols.
The Palestinians’ march to Gaza’s border with Israel on Friday was the largest such demonstration in recent memory. It marked “Land Day,” which commemorates the mass expropriation of Arab land in the Galilee by the Israeli government and the ensuing protests in which six Arab Israelis were killed.
It was the first part of a six-week-long “March of Return,” in which Palestinians call to be allowed to “return” to land that their ancestors fled in the 1948 War of Independence.
Further stoking unrest is the expectation that the United States will transfer its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in mid-May. The proposed move has infuriated Palestinian leaders.
At previous peace talks, the Palestinians have always demanded, along with sovereignty in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the Old City, a “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees who left or were forced out of Israel when it was established. The Palestinians demand this right not only for those of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are still alive — a figure estimated in the low tens of thousands — but also for their descendants, who number in the millions.
No Israeli government would ever be likely to accept this demand, since it would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Israel’s position is that Palestinian refugees and their descendants would become citizens of a Palestinian state at the culmination of the peace process, just as Jews who fled or were forced out of Middle Eastern countries by hostile governments became citizens of Israel.