Violence has broken out at the Gaza-Israel border as the Great Return March protests enter its second week, with three Palestinians reportedly wounded by Israel Defense Forces fire.
The IDF opened fire on protesters in the northern Gaza Strip, east of Jabaliya, Haaretz reports, with Israel deploying snipers and tanks along the border as protests gain traction. Palestinians have burned tires during protests in an effort to obstruct the view of Israeli snipers, while Israel says the smoke could hide terrorists.
RT’s live feed overlooking Shijaiyah in east Gaza shows hundreds of Palestinians gathering behind a cloud of black smoke from burning tires.
Last Friday’s protests resulted in the killing of 20 Palestinians, while hundreds more were wounded by live Israeli fire after snipers were instructed to shoot at protesters.
“The use of snipers was against specific people who were specific perpetrators of violence,” IDF spokesperson Lt Col Peter Lerner said. Footage from the clashes showed a number of unarmed protesters gunned down.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights this week urged Israel to ensure security forces do not use excessive force against Palestinian protesters. Israeli forces have been given orders to shoot protesters who get too close to the border fence. The US urged Palestinians to engage in peaceful protests and to stay 500 meters from the border with Israel. Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, placed ads in Israeli media urging IDF soldiers to refuse orders to fire at unarmed protesters.
Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Tuesday forces will continue to fire at Palestinians who get too close to the border fence, and anyone who comes close to the fence “will endanger their lives.”
“We have set very clear rules [of engagement] and we have no intention of changing them,” he said. “We are determined to protect the security of Israeli citizens, of course, first and foremost, in the area of Gaza, and there will be no compromise on this issue, no flexibility.”
The Great Return March is planned to continue up until the anniversary of the Nakba on May 15, which Palestinians refer to the mass exodus from their land during the establishment of the state of Israel. Israelis celebrate this as Independence Day.
Gazans have gathered near the border with Israel, setting up a number of tent encampments. Hundreds gathered along the border near Khuzaa before noon prayer on Friday, and Israeli forces fired tear gas which landed inside the camp, the Times of Israel reports.
Gaza is home to 2 million residents, many of them refugees expelled from Israel who maintain the hope that their right to return will one day be granted. The UN warned last year Gaza would become “unlivable” in three years.
The Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, have called on the International Criminal Court to investigate last Friday’s deaths.