Hundreds of Palestinians injured in Friday's Gaza protests

Hundreds of Palestinians injured in Friday's Gaza protests
3 min read
05 May, 2018
Hundreds of Palestinians have been left wounded and 49 shot dead as Great Return March protests enters its sixth week.
Hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza have been injured by Israel this Friday [Getty]

Thousands made their way to the Gaza border for the sixth week of protests on Friday, Israeli fire and tear gas left hundreds of Palestinians were wounded.

Medics treated 1,243 people, the majority for tear gas inhalation, and 83 for wounds caused by live fire, according to the Gazan health ministry.

Forty-nine Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since protests along the Gaza border on 30 March, and hundreds of others have been wounded by gunfire.

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.

Israel says the right of return would mean the end of the Jewish state, and accuses the Palestinian party Hamas of using the protests as a pretext for violence.

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.

No Israelis have been reported hurt.

Demonstrations are expected to spike again in the lead up to 14 May, when the United States is expected to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Organisers said part of Friday's plans included attempting to fly dozens of kites over the border fence to target Israeli agriculture.

A 32-year-old man wearing a camouflage hat with his face masked, a traditional keffiyeh scarf around his neck, said they hoped to fly around 50 kites.

"We hope to return back to our land, which is occupied," said the man who declined to give his name. "I'm not afraid, only of Allah."

Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri told local TV station al-Quds TV that this week's protest aims to reject US President Donald Trump’s proposal to orchestrate the "deal of the century" between Palestinians and Israelis.

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

Israel has defended its disproportionate use of violence against peaceful protesters involved in the the Great Return March demonstrations after facing a legal challenge from international rights groups, suggesting human rights laws do not apply to what it described as "acts of war".

Earlier, the UN high commissioner for human rights urged Israel to refrain from using excessive force against Palestinians.

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.