Seven were killed and hundreds were injured in the latest fighting between Palestinians and Israeli security forces along the Israel-Gaza border today. One teenager was killed, and twelve women and forty-eight children were among the estimated 1,000 people who were injured, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Dozens were treated near the border fence by Red Crescent field medics.
Violence had been feared ahead of what some had called “Friday of Fire” or “Friday of Tires.” It is the second in a series of protests and marches that have been planned through the middle of May.
Israeli Defense Forces said protestors had attempted to cut and breach a border fence under the cover of smoke, as well as to attempt to “carry out terror attacks, including hurling of explosive devices [and] firebombs.” The Israeli military has said they not allow anyone to cut through the fence and that anyone attempting to do so will be shot.
Israel will not allow “violent disturbances on the fence under the guise of a civilian march,” IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said.
Israel has been harshly criticized for using live ammunition against protesters in recent weeks. Seventeen Palestinians were killed and more than 1,400 injured last Friday in similar protests along the border fence that separates Israel and Gaza. The goal of the “March of Return” protests as they are known, is to cross the border fence and return to lands taken by Israel seven decades ago. Last Friday’s protests marked Land Day, the anniversary of Palestinian land being confiscated by Israel in 1976.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for all parties to deescalate. “I particularly urge Israel to exercise extreme caution with the use of force in order to avoid casualties,” he said in a statement. “Civilians must be able to exercise their right to demonstrate peacefully.”
The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations called for the U.N. to conduct an investigation into those responsible for the deaths. A Security Council statement calling for an independent investigation was blocked by the United States last Saturday.
Israel blames Hamas for the provocations and says most of the killed were “known terror activists” from Hamas as well as Islamic Jihad. Palestinians, as well as human rights organizations, accuse Israel of using illegal force on peaceful protesters.