#GreatReturnMarch: Israeli soldiers kill five Palestinians, injure hundreds in second week of Gaza protests

#GreatReturnMarch: Israeli soldiers kill five Palestinians, injure hundreds in second week of Gaza protests
3 min read
06 April, 2018
Israeli forces shot and killed five Palestinians along the Gaza border on Friday as thousands gathered to launch a second week of unarmed demonstrations.
Israeli forces shot and killed five Palestinians along the Gaza border on Friday as thousands gathered to launch a second week of unarmed demonstrations to demand the right of return for refugees to what is now Israel.

Usama Khamis Qadih, 38, was fatally wounded east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, the health ministry said, as Palestinians protested at various points along the border with Israel.

The second person, identified as Majdi Ramadan, 38, was killed east of Gaza City.

The ministry also said a 16-year-old teenager, not yet identified, was killed east of Gaza City while another man was shot dead, east of al-Bureij in central Gaza.

The fifth man was named as 45-year-old Sidqi Abu Attiwi, who was shot dead on the border east of al-Bureij in central Gaza.

More than 922 people were taken to hospitals and field clinics, the ministry said, but did not provide a breakdown of those injured by live fire, rubber-coated steel pellets or overcome by tear gas.

It said 19 people were in serious condition.

Thousands of protesters – Israel estimated 20,000 – gathered in locations near the border east of Khan Yunis, in the south of the blockaded Palestinian enclave, and east of Gaza City, among other spots.

The number of protesters was much lower than last week, when Israeli soldiers opened fire on a demonstration by tens of thousands, killing 19 Palestinians and injuring thousands more.

See in pictures: Photoblog: Palestinians protest along Gaza border in Great Return March 

Palestinians burned mounds of tyres and threw stones at Israeli soldiers over the border fence, who responded with tear gas and live fire.

The tyre fires were meant to be a smokescreen from Israeli snipers, as thick black smoke covered the border area in some places.

Israeli forces took up positions across a ridge on the other side of the border and set up large fans in an apparent bid to push away the smoke.

They also used water canon to try to douse some of the flames.

Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, hailed the protests and condemned Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

"They said Gaza would give up its principles, its project of liberation and (dream) of return if they starve it, but Gaza is coming out today," he said to protesters east of Khan Yunis.

He referred to the protest's call for Palestinian refugees to be able to return to land they fled or were expelled from in what is now Israel.

Sinwar said Gazans would "break the border and return to our land and pray in Jerusalem."

The protests, designed to last six weeks, are in support of refugees.

More than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their lands during the war surrounding Israel's creation in 1948.

I particularly urge Israel to exercise extreme caution with the use of force in order to avoid casualties. Civilians must be able to exercise their right to demonstrate peacefully
- UN chief Antonio Guterres

Israel had warned that its open-fire rules would remain unchanged for Friday's protests, pledging to stop any damage to the fence and prevent infiltrations or alleged attacks.

But it has faced mounting criticism over its use of live fire, and UN chief Antonio Guterres has called for restraint.

"I particularly urge Israel to exercise extreme caution with the use of force in order to avoid casualties. Civilians must be able to exercise their right to demonstrate peacefully," he said in a statement.

Palestinians say protesters were shot while posing no threat to soldiers, with unverified videos spreading online to fuel their accusations.

One video appears to show a man with a tyre shot while running away from the fence.

Human Rights Watch has called the actions by the Israeli soldiers "calculated" and "illegal."

Guterres and the European Union have called for an independent investigation, which Israel has outright rejected.