Palestinians killed as protesters clash with IDF at unrest anniversary | News | DW | 30.03.2019
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Palestinians killed as protesters clash with IDF at unrest anniversary

Deadly clashes broke out in Gaza as tens of thousands of Palestinians marked a year of unrest in the region. Israeli military fired live rounds, according to eyewitnesses.

Watch video 01:54

Flicker of hope in Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Four Palestinians died and hundreds more were injured during large-scale protests at the Gaza border on Saturday, the territory's health ministry said.

Three 17-year-old boys and a 21-year-old man were killed at protests that stretched across five locations, it said.

Israel, which did not comment on the deaths, said five rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel hours after the protests ended, but no casualties were reported. Israeli tanks retaliated by firing on Hamas military posts in Gaza, it added.

Tens of thousands attend protests

During the border demonstrations, Palestinian officials and eyewitnesses reported Israelis using live rounds. Some of the injured also suffered shrapnel wounds, rubber bullet hits or injuries from fired tear gas canisters.

The Israeli army said groups of protesters attempted to approach the Gaza fence, throwing rocks and setting tires on fire, as well lobbing grenades and explosive devices.

"IDF troops are responding with riot dispersal means and are firing in accordance with standard operating procedures," it said.

Mosques in Gaza City used their loudspeakers to urge people to attend, with buses shuttling demonstrators to the site, despite rainy weather. Tens of thousands of people heeded the call, but the vast majority avoided the border area. 

Year of protests

The demonstrations cap a year of regular protests calling for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes they were forced to leave in the 1948 war that accompanied the creation of Israel.

More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army since the protests began. At least 62 were shot dead in a single day in May last year in clashes that were fueled by US' decision to transfer of its embassy to the disputed city of Jerusalem. Two Israeli soldiers have also been killed.

Egyptian negotiators are currently trying to broker a cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas. Hamas said Saturday that it had received "positive signs" from the Egyptians on a potential deal, which the militant group said includes Israeli economic incentives in exchange for calm along the border.

Read more: Gaza Strip: Hamas facing growing pushback

Watch video 01:36

The significance of the Golan heights

Embattled premier

The protests could increase pressure on right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to show that he is in control in the confrontations with Hamas ahead of upcoming elections, where he is facing a strong challenge from former army chief Benny Gantz. This week, the Israeli military struck dozens of Hamas targets in Gaza in response to a rocket fired by militants in the territory.

Some 2 million Palestinians in Gaza live in conditions described by the United Nations last September as causing "profound suffering and aid dependency." Israel has maintained a blockade on the enclave for more than a decade, greatly reducing the territory's productive capacity.

Israel says the blockade is necessary to contain Hamas. It also rejects the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their former homes, saying Israel could not cope with the mass influx.

Read more: Gaza's youth stare into the abyss

aw, tj/amp (AFP, AP)

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