Dozens of Palestinians resumed protests in two locations in the Gaza Strip Saturday afternoon as part of the "March of Return," a series of mass protests along the Israel-Gaza border to mark Land Day. Meanwhile, thousands of Gazans attended the funerals of the 15 Palestinians who were killed in clashes during Friday's mass rallies.
According to the Health Ministry in Gaza, 49 demonstrators were moderately wounded during Saturday's protests. Palestinians reported that the Israeli military opened fire at two locations: one east of Jabalya in northern Gaza and the second near Khan Younis in the south.
Hamas said that five of the protesters killed Friday were members of the organization's military wing in Gaza. According to the Israeli military, at least eight of those killed were members of Hamas, while two others had "a clear terrorist background." Around 30,000 Gazans participated in Friday's rally, which left at least 15 Palestinians dead and dozens wounded after a number of protesters threw stones and firebombs toward Israeli soldiers stationed along the border fence.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that Saturday would be a day of mourning in the Palestinian territories. He added that he holds Israel fully responsible for the deaths and asked for the United Nations to provide protection for Palestinian demonstrators.
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The Palestinian casualties, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry and local media, have so far been identified as: Mahmoud Saudi Rachmi, 33, killed by gunfire in eastern Gaza; Jihad Faranh, 34, killed in eastern Gaza; Mohammed Kamal al-Nagar, 25, killed in Jabalia; Mahmoud Abu Maomar, 27, killed during clashes in Rafah; Iyad Abed Al-el; Ahmed Ibrahim Odeh, 19, killed by gunfire in the northern Gaza Strip; Abed al-Qader al-Khawajri, 42; and Abdullah Abu Hajir, 25.
The UN Security Council convened Friday night to discuss the situation on the border, which, according to a senior UN official, "might deteriorate in the coming days." The official called that civilians, particularly children, not be targeted.
The Israeli military has declared the area along the border a closed military zone, responding with live ammunition and other riot control methods in hopes of dispersing the protests. The army has also fired artillery at Hamas and Islamic Jihad positions in the Strip.
Backed by the Hamas government in Gaza, Palestinians have established several tent camps housing thousands near the border.
Friday's and Saturday's rallies mark Land Day, a day Palestinians worldwide have commemorated since 1976, when Israeli security forces shot dead six Israeli Arabs who were protesting the expropriation of Arab-owned land in northern Israel to build Jewish communities. About 100 others were wounded and hundreds were arrested during the protest on March 30 of that year.
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