At least nine Palestinians were killed by Israeli army gunfire during Friday protests at the Israeli-Gaza border, Gaza officials now say. Among the dead is a Palestinian journalist who succumbed to his injuries later.
A Palestinian journalist who was shot by Israeli forces during renewed clashes along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel has died of his wounds, bringing the toll of those killed during Friday's protests to nine, the Health Ministry in the Strip said on Saturday.
The ministry also announced the death of another man to add to an initial death toll of seven. Nearly 500 people were injured by live fire and rubber bullets, 33 seriously, it said.
The dead journalist, Yasser Murtaja, was working as a photographer for the Gaza-based Ain media agency. He was more than 100 meters (yards) from the border and wearing a flak jacket marked "press" when he was shot.
The Israeli army has not yet commented on Murtaja's death, saying only that it had stopped several attempts to breach the border fence and had acted "in accordance with the rules of engagement."
The UN human rights office said on Friday that there were indications of Israeli forces using "excessive force" against protesters last week, when 21 Palestinians were killed or died later of their wounds amid clashes near the border.
At least 31 Palestinians have died in connection with violence at the border since last week, when Gazans launched six weeks of protests against the displacement of some 700,000 Arabs from their homes when Israel was founded in 1948. The protests are planned to run until May 15, a day after Israel marks the 70th anniversary of its founding.
Palestinians refer to the 1948 expulsion as the Nakba, or "catastrophe." The 2 million people living in the 360-square-kilometer (139-square-mile) Gaza Strip are mostly descendants of the refugees, who have never been allowed to return.
Israel says that Hamas, the militant Islamic group that rules the Gaza Strip, is using the mass marches as a cover for attacking the border fence. The army said on Friday that protesters had thrown explosive devices and firebombs.
Dire humanitarian situation
Israel and Egypt have imposed blockades on the Gaza Strip since Hamas took power in 2007, making it increasingly difficult for the group to govern.
Unemployment stands at 50 percent and there are recurrent shortages of power and medical supplies.
However, Israel says Hamas itself is to blame for the humanitarian crisis because of its refusal to disarm and renounce violence.
tj/jlw (AP, dpa, AFP)