Israeli troops fire bullets, tear gas at Gaza protesters

Israeli troops fired tear gas and live rounds at Palestinians thronging the Gaza-Israel border on Friday as part of a long-running protest.

Israeli troops fired live rounds and tear gas at Palestinians who thronged the Gaza-Israel frontier and rampaged at a border terminal on Friday as part of a long-running protest, injuring about 1,100 people.

Medics said around 82 people were shot and wounded with live fire, another 800 treated for gas inhalation and the rest for other injuries along the Gaza side of the 25-mile (40-km) border fence, where Palestinians set up tent encampments on March 30 for what they call “The Great March of Return”.

Youths rolled burning tires to within 500 meters (yards) of the fence, using the smoke as a screen to counter Israeli sharpshooters on the other side. At least 43 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli army gunfire in the last month.

Protestors said they used slingshots to down a small Israeli observation drone overhead.


An Israeli military spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

As Israel celebrates its 70th birthday, Palestinians mourn what they call the “Nakba” (Catastrophe) of their people’s mass-dispossession during the conflict that broke out in 1948.

Two-thirds of Gaza’s 2 million Palestinians are war refugees or their descendants. The Gaza protests have seen thousands gather – in greater numbers on Fridays – to demand access to their families’ lost homes or lands, now in Israel.

Israel rules that out, concerned it would lose its Jewish majority. Alternatives, such as accommodating refugees and their descendants in a future Palestinian state, have been discussed in peace talks that date back to 1993 but which are now stalled.

“Give us a state”

“If it wasn’t for the occupation we would have lived as free as people like in other countries,” said Ahmed, 24, at a protest site east of Gaza City. “If they don’t allow us back, at least they should give us a state.”

The Palestinians and human rights groups, including the United Nations body, have criticized Israel for using live fire against the protesters.

Israel says it is protecting its borders and takes such action only when protesters, some hurling stones and Molotov cocktails trying to lay explosives, come too close to the fence.

Israel says the protests have been organized by Hamas – an Islamist group that controls Gaza and is sworn to Israel’s destruction – to provide cover for attacks, and that most of the dead were militants. Palestinians deny those allegations.

The protests take place at a time of growing frustration as prospects for an independent Palestinian state look poor. While the peace talks are stuck, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories have expanded.

An added focus this year is President Donald Trump’s decision to begin moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem on May 14, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding.

Trump’s moves angered Palestinian leaders, who have refused to talk to his administration, accusing it of pro-Israel bias. Israel’s government celebrated the US decision, saying it recognized the “reality” that Jerusalem was the historic capital of the Jewish people.

Visiting the Middle East earlier this week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Pompeo lent his support to Israel’s handling of the border protests.

“We do believe the Israelis have a right to defend themselves,” he said.


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