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'Premeditated murder': Abbas announces 'day of mourning' as Gaza death toll reaches 16

Dozens of protesters were shot dead by Israeli snipers on Friday, with thousands injured [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 March, 2018

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Palestinian leaders have called for international intervention and national mourning after at least 16 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces while commemorating Land Day at the Gaza border.
President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas declared Saturday as a day of national mourning for the 16 Gazans killed by Israeli forces while commemorating the 42nd anniversary of Land Day.

Friday became the conflict's worst single day of violence since the 2014 Gaza war with some 1,600 injured, over 700 of them by live bullets and the remainder by rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas inhalation.

At least 20 are in critical condition in Gaza's hospitals, which have been overwhelmed by the skyrocketing number of casualties occurring over just several hours on Friday.

Abbas called on the United Nations to provide international protection for the defenceless Palestinian people, pointing out that the especially high number of Palestinian casualties seen on Friday confirms the need for intervention by the international community.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said on Saturday that Israel should be "held accountable" for what he described as "premeditated murder" of Palestinians in Gaza on Friday, according to WAFA news agency.

The UN Security Council held emergency talks on Friday to discuss the risks of further escalation in Israeli-Palestinian violence in the Gaza Strip, but failed to agree a joint statement on the deadly clashes.

In response to the demonstrations, in which women and children took part, Israel's military targeted three Hamas sites in the Gaza Strip with tank fire and an airstrike after what it said was an attempted shooting attack against soldiers along the border that caused no injuries.

Most demonstrators gathered at various sites inside the blockaded territory, however smaller numbers approached within a few hundred metres of the heavily fortified border fence, with Israeli troops using tear gas and live fire to force them back.

Israeli security forces used a drone to fire tear gas toward those along the border, in one of the first uses of the device, a police spokesman said.

Israel also used snipers at the border and reportedly shot at unarmed protesters, with video footage showing Palestinians who were running away from Israeli forces being shot from behind.

Both the Palestinian Authority and Turkey have accused Israel of using disproportionate force against Palestinian protesters.

Human Rights Watch strongly condemned Israel's use of force against protesters, with their Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson tweeting on Friday: "The shocking number of Palestinians killed and hurt today by soldiers firing across the Gaza fence raises serious questions about Israel's longstanding use of live ammunition to police demonstrations."

Land Day marks the beginning of a six-week protest dubbed the "March of Return" in which Gazan families are to set up tents along the border with Israel to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, when 700,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes.

Agencies contributed to this report

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