Palestinians Set Fires at Israel-Gaza Crossing; 70 Wounded by Israeli Fire in Border Protests

Gaza Health Ministry: Three wounded protesters in critical condition ■ IDF says protesters tried to breach border ■ 45 killed since protests started six weeks ago

Palestinian protesters flee from incoming teargas canisters during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza strip east of Gaza City, May 4, 2018.
MAHMUD HAMS/AFP

Some 10,000 Palestinians protested along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip for the sixth consecutive Friday, with demonstrators attempting to breach the fence being met by Israeli attempts to disperse them.

>> The heartbreaking reason this Palestinian joined the Gaza border protests >>

According to the Israeli military, riots broke out at five locations along the fence, with protesters burning tires, throwing stones and flying kites with flammable material with the aim of starting fires in Israeli territory. Gaza's Health Ministry said 431 protesters were wounded in clashes with Israeli forces, 70 of whom by live fire.

The IDF said a few dozen protesters set fires at several locations on the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with the aim of damaging pipelines that transfer gas and fuel from Israel into the Strip.

Palestinians prepare an incendiary device attached to a kite before trying to fly it over the border fence with Israel, on the eastern outskirts of Jabalia, Gaza, May 4, 2018.
MOHAMMED ABED/AFP
Palestinian protesters set fires near the Kerem Shalom border crossing

Several attempts were made by protesters to cross into Israeli territory, the military said. Three Palestinians who tried to breach the border were taken in for interrogation. The IDF also said two drones used for observation fell on the Gazan side, but that there is no suspicion information has been leaked. 

Of those Palestinians wounded in the clashes, 229 were evacuated to hospitals, Gaza's Health Ministry said. Thirty-eight of the wounded protesters were hit by Israeli rubber bullets. Three of those wounded are in critical condition, while 75 others sustained light to moderate wounds. Since the confrontations began on March 30, 45 Palestinians have been killed. The last death came on Thursday. 

The committee in Gaza organizing the protests said the theme this week is “The Friday of the workers” to mark May 1, and in honor of the Palestinian worker. The organizing committee expressed disappointment that the protests have not spilled over into the West Bank.

Ahead of Friday's protest, the army warned Palestinians against attempting to send kits with firebombs attacked to them into Israel, as has already happened this week, saying soldiers would respond with force.

A wounded demonstrator is evacuated during clashes with Israeli forces on the Israel-Gaza border, May 4, 2018.
\ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS
Palestinian protesters use slings to hurl stones towards Israeli forces during clashes along the border with the Gaza strip east of Khan Yunis, May 4, 2018.
SAID KHATIB/AFP

Even before the present wave of weekly protests began, the IDF warned that it would use live ammunition against anyone trying to damage the fence and enter Israel. The use of live fire against the protesters has been criticized both inside Israel and abroad. The authorities in the Gaza Strip claim almost 2,000 Palestinians have been injured during the protests. 

The UN special representative to the Middle East, Nikolay Mladenov, harshly criticized the death of a 15-year-old in Gaza, saying the killing of a child was outrageous and demanded Israel and the IDF “stop shooting at children.” The EU also called to investigate the incident.

Human rights organizations recently petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice to cancel the rules of engagement that allow soldiers to fire on protestors along the border is they are not a concrete and immediate threat to human life. In addition, the groups have asked the High Court to rule that these rules of engagement during protests are illegal. 

In its response, the government said the protests by Palestinians along the Gaza border fall into the category of a state of war and thus human rights law does not apply to the rules of engagement. According to the state, the Israeli rules of engagement comply with both Israeli and international law.