Thousands of Palestinians protested Friday along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip for the sixth consecutive week, with demonstrators approaching the fence only to be met with Israeli attempts to disperse them. The IDF reported that there were two attempts by a group of rioters to cross into Israeli territory from central Gaza. Israeli forces arrived at the scene and the rioters returned to their tracks.
According to reports in Gaza, 350 protesters have been wounded since confrontations with Israeli forces started at noon, 148 of whom have been evacuated to hospitals. Of those wounded, 42 sustained wounds from Israeli live fire and 20 from rubber bullets. Three are in critical condition, while 42 others sustained light to moderate wounds. Since the confrontations began on March 30, 45 Palestinians have been killed. The last death came on Thursday.
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According to the Israel Defense Forces, some 7,000 Palestinians are protesting along the border. The IDF said violent riots are taking place in five locations along the fence, with protesters burning tires, throwing stones and flying kites with flammable material with the aim of starting fires on the Israeli side of the border.
Palestinians prepare to set kites on fire to be thrown at the Israeli side at a protest demanding the right to return to their homeland, at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza Strip, May 4, 20 IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS
The IDF added that two drones used for observation fell on the Gazan side, but that there is no suspicion information has been leaked.
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The committee in Gaza organizing the protests said the theme this week is “The Friday of the workers” to mark May 1, and in honor of the Palestinian worker. The organizing committee expressed disappointment that the protests have not spilled over into the West Bank.
>> The heartbreaking reason this Palestinian joined the Gaza border protests >>
Ahead of Friday’s protest, the army warned Palestinians against attempting to send kits with firebombs attacked to them into Israel, as has already happened this week, saying soldiers would respond with force.
Even before the present wave of weekly protests began, the Israel Defense Forces warned that it would use live ammunition against anyone trying to damage the fence and enter Israel. The use of live fire against the protesters has been criticized both inside Israel and abroad. The authorities in the Gaza Strip claim almost 2,000 Palestinians have been injured during the protests.
The UN special representative to the Middle East, Nikolay Mladenov, harshly criticized the death of a 15-year-old in Gaza, saying the killing of a child was outrageous and demanded Israel and the IDF “stop shooting at children.” The EU also called to investigate the incident.
Human rights organizations recently petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice to cancel the rules of engagement that allow soldiers to fire on protestors along the border is they are not a concrete and immediate threat to human life. In addition, the groups have asked the High Court to rule that these rules of engagement during protests are illegal.
In its response, the government said the protests by Palestinians along the Gaza border fall into the category of a state of war and thus human rights law does not apply to the rules of engagement. According to the state, the Israeli rules of engagement comply with both Israeli and international law.