Three Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces Friday as thousands participated in the "March of Return" along the Israel-Gaza border for the fifth week in a row, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. At least 174 Palestinians were wounded by live fire, said the ministry.
Of the wounded, at least four were medical staff and six were journalists, reported the ministry. Two of the wounded are said to be in critical condition and six in very serious condition..
According to the IDF, hundreds of Palestinians rushed the border in central Gaza near the Karni Crossing. Several were wounded by Israeli fire in response.
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The army added that more than 10,000 Palestinians participated in Friday's events, saying "attempts have been made to harm security infrastructure, roll burning tires, hurl rocks and fly kites with flaming objects attached to them."
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Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces also clashed in Hebron, leaving one lightly wounded.
The committee organizing the protests said this week’s march is dedicated to “rebellious youth” to honor the thousands of young people who have come to protest every week at the area along the border fence.
A Hamas spokesman said Friday afternoon: "The crimes of the occupation against demonstrators will only strengthen the motivation of youth to continue in the national struggle until the siege is broken."
Arriving to a pocket of protests, political head of Hamas Yahya Sinwar said "We are continuing processions until the implementation of the right of return and breaking the siege and living with dignity."
The organizers said that this week, too, the marches are supposed to remain a nonviolent mass protest. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, youths scattered sand bags in several locations along the border earlier this week for protection against sniper fire.
The protests will continue even after May 15, the day the Palestinians mark the Nakba (Catastrophe) – the founding of Israel – said Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas political bureau, on Wednesday. “The Palestinian people will demonstrate throughout the month of Ramadan to deal with the many challenges facing us, and first of all the peace plan promoted by U.S. President Donald Trump, called the ‘Deal of the Century,’” said Haniyeh.
“We will turn this deal into a resounding slap in the face for the administration in Washington and anyone who weaves conspiracies against the Palestinian people,” added Haniyeh.
Forty-two Palestinians have been killed and 5,511 were wounded in the mass protests since March 30, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on Tuesday.
On Friday, the UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said that Israel must address the use of excessive force in Gaza, and that the loss of life is "deplorable," and that "the number of injuries is staggering."
Of the injured, 2,596 people were hospitalized in government hospitals, 773 in nongovernment hospitals and the rest were treated in the field. Of those in government hospitals, 1,499 were hit by live ammunition, 107 by sponge-tipped bullets, 408 suffered gas inhalation and 582 suffered other injuries; 2,142 were adults and 454 were minors.
The Palestinian National Council, the highest body of the Palestine Liberation Organization, will hold a controversial meeting this week in Ramallah, which has also cast a shadow over this week’s protests.
Thousands are expected to turn out for the protests this week due to growing anger, particularly after the funeral of Fadi al-Batsh in the Jabalya refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on Thursday. Thousands attended the funeral of al-Batsh, a Palestinian engineer working for Hamas on weapons projects who was killed in Malaysia and whose death was attributed by foreign media outlets to the Mossad.
The deputy head of the Hamas political bureau in the Gaza Strip, Khalil al-Hiya, threatened Israel once again and accused it killing of al-Batsh. Speaking on the arrival of al-Batsh’s coffin in Gaza, al-Hiya said Israel bears responsibility for the death: “We say to the Zionist entity that without a doubt the day of punishment will come.”