Death toll from Gaza protest killings rises to 40

Death toll from Gaza protest killings rises to 40
2 min read
23 April, 2018
As Gaza protests enter the fourth week, two Palestinians have succumb to their wounds seeing the death toll rise to 40, following Israel's use of live fire at the demonstrations.
Gaza's health ministry confirmed the death toll has hit 40 as deadly clashes continue [Getty]
Two Palestinians wounded by Israeli gunfire during demonstrations on the Gaza border were pronounced dead Monday, raising the death toll from Israeli live fire to 40, following four weeks on protests in the besieged territory.

A Gaza health ministry official named the latest fatalities as Tahrir Wahada, 18, and Abdullah Shamali, 20.

Ashraf al-Qudra, a ministry spokesperson, said that Wahada was shot in the head during a demonstration east of Khan Younis 6 April, and Shamali died of "bullet wounds to his belly" sustained on Friday.

The past few weeks have seen tensions rise between Hamas-ruled Gaza and Israel. Mass protests erupted on 30 March - dubbed "Great Return March" - which have centred on the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, after they were expelled following the 1948 creation of Israel.

The protests along the Gaza border quickly turned deadly, with Israeli forces responding with live ammunition. At least 1,600 protesters have been wounded by gunfire or needed treatment for tear gas inhalation in the weeks of protests.

The Israeli army has claimed that its forces only open fire in self-defence or to stop protesters attempting to breach the barrier separating the coastal enclave from Israel.

Friday saw over 440 demonstrators wounded with bullets or gas inhalation according to rescuers.

Israel has drawn harsh criticism from rights groups along with calls for investigations by the UN and the EU.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini called for an independent investigation. A draft UN Security Council statement urging restraint and calling for an investigation of the violence was blocked by the US.

Veteran US politician and former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders delivered a blistering critique of the Israeli leadership and its response to the recent Gaza protests, lambasting "the reactionary policies of Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu" and "the inhumane blockade of Gaza".

"The presence of Hamas members among a crowd of tens of thousands does not justify the level of violence we saw, and frankly it's amazing to me that anyone would find that point controversial" 

Human rights groups have similarly slammed Israel's excessive use of violence.

"While some Palestinian demonstrators have thrown stones and other objects towards the fence, it's hard to believe how this would be an imminent danger to the lives of well-equipped soldiers protected by snipers, tanks and drones," Amnesty International has said.

Israel said it will not investigate the killing of protesters in Gaza, rejected calls for an independent probe and threatened to "expand" its response.