Israeli forces martyr 14 Palestinians on Gaza border
GAZA-ISRAEL BORDER (Reuters) – At least 14 Palestinians were killed and over 1,300 injured by Israeli security forces along the Israel-Gaza border in recent years, Gaza medical officials said.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians, pressing for a right of return for refugees, gathered at five locations along the fenced 65-km (40-mile) frontier where tents were erected for a planned six-week protest, local officials said.
Families brought their children to the encampments just a few hundred metres (yards) from the Israeli security barrier with the Hamas Islamist-run enclave, and football fields were marked in the sand and scout bands played.
But as the day wore on, hundreds of Palestinian youths ignored calls from the organisers and the Israeli military to stay away from the frontier, where Israeli soldiers across the border kept watch from dirt mound embankments.
Palestinian health officials said Israeli forces used mostly gunfire against the protesters, in addition to tear gas and rubber bullets. Witnesses said the military had deployed a drone over at least one location to drop tear gas.
Gaza health officials said one of the nine dead was aged 16 and at least 400 people were wounded by live gunfire, while others were struck by rubber bullets or treated for tear gas inhalation.
The Palestinian protest was launched on “Land Day,” an annual commemoration of the deaths of six Arab citizens of Israel killed by Israeli security forces during demonstrations over government land confiscations in northern Israel in 1976.
Citing security concerns, Israel, which withdrew troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, blockades the coastal territory, maintaining tight restrictions on the movement of Palestinians and goods across the frontier. Egypt, battling an Islamist insurgency in neighbouring Sinai, keeps its border with Gaza largely closed.
At on Gaza protest site, 80-year-old Mansi Nassar walked towards the frontier with the aid of his cane, disregarding entreaties to remain 700 metres (2,300 feet) from the barrier.
“I was born in Beit Darras inside Palestine and I will accept no less than returning to it,” he said, referring to his former home village just south of the modern Israeli city of Ashdod. The village no longer exists.