Pillars of black smoke emanated from the Gaza Strip as mostly young men were expected to push towards the Israeli
border fence, in an action likely to incur army fire.
The Gaza Health Ministry said three Palestinians were injured in different locations by Israeli fire by early
“[Israeli army] troops are responding with riot dispersal means, and fire in accordance with the rules of engagement,”
the army said.
Palestinians camped along the border said they planned to set thousands of tyres ablaze and use the thick smoke and
mirrors to blind and confuse Israeli army snipers.
Israel has warned that it has not changed its policy of firing on Palestinians who approach the Gaza-Israel border
fence, saying that the protests are a mask for Hamas to carry out attacks.
Human rights groups have criticized Israel’s use of live fire as disproportionate to the threat posed by Palestinians
throwing rocks, burning tyres and lobbing Molotov cocktails.
Multiple videos from last week, which the Israeli army rejected as “Hamas’s propoganda,” appear to show Palestinians
being shot while not posing an immediate threat.
Since last Friday, 22 Palestinians have died from Israeli fire. The majority of the fatalities occurred during the
Gaza border protest, while hundreds more were injured.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and others have called for an independent investigation into the deaths,
while Israeli officials have defended army actions.
Israel has said that a some of the killed Palestinians fired on army positions and the majority of them were
affiliated with Hamas’ armed wing and other militant groups in the coastal enclave.
The army has defended its use of force by saying army troops were responding to riots and targeted what it said
were the “main instigators.”
Palestinians are staging a six-week protest, dubbed the “Great March of Return,” to call for a return of
Palestinian refugees and their descendants who fled or were expelled from their homes in present-day Israel
in the 1948 war that marked Israel’s creation.
Israel has said that Hamas, the Islamist group which much of the West considers a terrorist organization, is using
the protests as a distraction to carry out attacks on Israeli border towns and security infrastructure.
“We will wait and see if the world receives the message and [puts] pressure on Israel to stop its crimes against
our people,” Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, said Friday.
“And if the world fails to do so, then we will be obliged to use our arms.”
The sit-in will culminate on May 15, the day after the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence,
which is marked by Palestinians as Nakba Day, Arabic for “catastrophe.”
It will also coincide with the US embassy’s planned move on May 14 from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which has inflamed
“Hamas is playing with fire and will have to bear the consequences,” Israeli army spokesman Ronen Manelis said on
Thursday, warning civilians in Gaza to stay away from the border area.
“It’s not the place for camping out or having a picnic.”
Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and since fought three wars with Israel that have crippled Gaza’s
The coastal enclave has an over 40 per cent unemployment rate and faces a dire humanitarian situation exacerbated
by an over decade-long blockade by Israel and Egypt.