Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Gaza border protests | News | DW | 20.04.2018
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Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Gaza border protests

The death toll from recent protests has risen to at least 39 after four more Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces. After four weeks of protests nearly 1,600 Palestinians have been wounded.

Israeli forces shot dead four Palestinians protesting on the Gaza-Israel border fence Friday as rolling weekly protests entered their fourth week. 

Palestinian health officials said 156 Palestinians were also wounded by Israeli gunfire, bring the total number of wounded in the past month to more than 1,600. 

Among those killed by Israeli snipers Friday was a 15-year-old boy.

UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov called the shooting of the child "outrageous."

Palestinian organizers have called the weekly Friday protests the "Great March of Return" beginning on Land Day, March 30, and continuing until May 15, the 70th anniversary of the "Nakba" - or the "catastrophe" - when 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes and off their land by Israeli forces in 1948.

The demonstrators have been calling for Israeli security forces to open up the Gaza-Israel border in order to allow Palestinian refugees the right to return to their former lands that are now in Israel. The protests are also aimed showing frustration of 2 million Gazans cramped into the narrow strip of land where a humanitarian crisis in unfolding. 

US President Donald Trump's decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, scheduled for May 15, have also stirred Palestinian anger. 

Israel has vowed to put an end to attacks and attempts to damage the border fence. It has also accused Hamas of using the protests as a cover to commit acts of violence.

The top Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said Friday that protesters would try to breach the border on May 15.

"Our people will outnumber the occupation and force it from our land," he said, referring to Israel. 

Earlier in the day, Israeli military planes dropped leaflets on Gaza urging Palestinians to stay away from the fence, warning that getting close to the border fence would put their lives in danger.

Despite the warning, protesters gathered at sit-in camps along the border, burning effigies of Israeli soldiers. Protesters used catapults, threw stones and burned tires as a smoke screen.  

On previous Fridays, some demonstrators have strayed closer to the border, throwing stones, Molotov cocktails and burning tires at the fence. They have also begun using kites, sometimes on fire, to fly across the border. 

The Gaza protests have put international pressure on Israel over its harsh response. 

Separately, Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman said she would not be heading to Israel to accept $1 million (1.23 million) prize because of "distressing" events in the country. 

The Genesis Prize Foundation quoted Portman's represenative as saying:  "Recent events in Israel
have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel."

The renewed clashes came one day after Israel marked the 70th anniversary of its founding, with the military displays that are a routine part of the annual celebrations.

cw,es/rt (AFP, AP, dpa)

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