PALESTINE (OBSERVATORY) – Israeli soldiers fired live bullets and tear gas at Palestinian demonstrators on the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, some of them crossing a border crossing on Friday as part of long-running protests, wounding some 1,100 Palestinians.
Medics said some 82 people were shot and treated 800 others by inhaling tear gas and the others were wounded on the Palestinian side of the border fence where Gaza residents set up camps in the framework of the “Great March of Return” which began on March 30.
Young men drove tires after they set fire to a distance of about 300 meters from the border fence, making their smoke a cover, blocking Israeli snipers on the other side of the shooting. At least 43 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army last month.
Protesters said they used the cannons to shoot down two small Israeli drone reconnaissance aircraft. The Israeli army confirmed the loss of the two planes.
Hundreds of Palestinians stormed the Kerem Shalom border crossing, one of them said on social media sites that they “burned rooms used by the occupation.”
The Israeli army published footage of a fire at the crossing, but said the destruction was confined to the Palestinian side of the crossing.
“The vandals destroy pipelines that carry fuel and gas from Israel to the Gaza Strip,” he said in a statement.
The Israeli army said its forces faced “around 10,000 Palestinians who participated in riots in five locations along the border with the Gaza Strip.” One group tried to break through the border fence and enter Israeli territory, the army said.
As Israel celebrates its 70th anniversary, Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, the anniversary of the mass exodus of Palestinians in 1948.
The protests in Gaza have seen thousands gather in increasing numbers week after week to demand their right to return to the homes of their former families or lands that are now in Israel.
Israel rejects this for fear of losing the Jewish majority. Alternatives, such as the resettlement of refugees and their descendants in a future Palestinian state, were under discussion in peace talks that began in 1993 but are now stalled.
– “Give us a state” –
“If it had not been for the occupation, we would have been free like all other countries,” said one of the protesters, Ahmed. If they must allow us to return, they must give us a state no less than that. ”
Palestinians and rights groups have criticized Israel for using its troops as live ammunition against protesters.
Israel says it protects its borders and only takes action when protesters, some of whom throw stones and incendiary bombs, come too close to the border fence.
The protests come at a time of growing frustration among the Palestinians amid expectations of an independent Palestinian state. While peace talks have been stalled, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are being expanded.
It also marks the start of the transfer of the US Embassy to Jerusalem in implementation of President Donald Trump’s decision on May 14, the 70th anniversary of the declaration of the State of Israel.
During his visit to the Middle East earlier this week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed support for Israel’s handling of protests in the border area.
“We think the Israelis have the right to defend themselves,” he said.