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Palestinians gather for mass protests along Gaza-Israel border

Palestinians gather for mass protests along Gaza-Israel border

The goal of the "March of Return" protests, Palestinians say, is to cross the border fence and return to what they say are their lands, which became part of Israel seven decades ago.

Yesterday, groups of youths waved Palestinian flags and burnt hundreds of tyres and Israeli flags near the fenced-off border after prayers.

Gaza's Health Ministry said more than 1,300 Palestinians were wounded by live fire in the past two weeks.

Demonstrators are demanding that Palestinian refugees be given the "right of return" to their towns and villages in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948. Israel claimed protesters had repeatedly tried to damage the border fence by hurling explosives and firebombs. The protests already have resulted in dozens killed and thousands injured.

More than 10,000 Palestinians are participating in demonstrations along the Israel-Gaza border.

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Another Israeli group, Breaking The Silence, published a statement by five former snipers in the Israeli military who said they were "filled with shame and sorrow" over the recent incidents in Gaza. While protests have been largely peaceful, a minority of protesters have thrown stones and, according to the Israeli army, Molotov cocktails in the direction of the fence.

Senior Hamas official Ismail Radwan said in an interview near the border that the demonstrations were created to send a message to the world.

Israel accuses Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs Gaza and with whom it has fought three wars since 2008, of using the protests as cover to carry out violence.

It stated that the seventeen medics were among 701 Palestinians, including journalists, who were injured by Israeli army fire. Protesters stuck a Palestinian flag into the fence and affixed a rope, using it to tug at the coils.

At five spots along the frontier, tent complexes have been erected hundreds of metres from the border where families have gathered.

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An Israeli military spokesman said troops were confronted by rioters and responded with "riot dispersal means while also firing in accordance with the rules of engagement".

Refugees have a universally recognized right to return to their places of origin, but Israel has denied this right to the over five million Palestinians who are now living as refugees in Gaza, the West Bank and countries around the world after fleeing from cities like Jaffa in the context of violence.

The Israeli military say demonstrators also hurled an explosive device and several fire bombs near the fence. Some 350 Gazans were treated for injuries, including 59 from live fire, Palestinian authorities said. Their horrifying use of live ammunition against unarmed protesters, and the resultant deaths, must be investigated as possible unlawful killings.

The group has been criticised in Israel for publishing often anonymous testimony by current or former Israeli soldiers who have misgivings about their military service and treatment of Palestinians.

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