Palestinians mark protest anniversary at Gaza border

A Palestinian woman reacting after inhaling tear gas during clashes with Israeli forces yesterday, following a demonstration marking the first anniversary of the "Great March of Return" protests, near the border with Israel east of Gaza City.
A Palestinian woman reacting after inhaling tear gas during clashes with Israeli forces yesterday, following a demonstration marking the first anniversary of the "Great March of Return" protests, near the border with Israel east of Gaza City.PHOTO: REUTERS
VIDEO: REUTERS

GAZA • Thousands of Palestinians rallied at the Gaza-Israel border yesterday, to mark the first anniversary of a surge of protests, facing off against Israeli forces massed across the frontier.

Troops fired tear gas across the border and the Israeli military said some of the estimated 20,000 demonstrators threw rocks, grenades and burning tyres towards them. Palestinian activists clad in bright orange vests tried to keep people back, though some made it to the fence.

Gaza medics said a Palestinian man was killed by Israeli fire near the boundary before dawn.

The Israeli military said it had no knowledge of the death and that Palestinians were throwing explosive devices at the border fence through Friday night.

Confrontations have mounted since last week ahead of the commemoration of the "Great March of Return" protests, which began on March 30 last year.

A Gaza rocket attack wounded seven Israelis north of Tel Aviv last Monday and, in response, Israel launched a wave of air strikes and ramped up its forces at the border.

The protests have turned deadly in the past and Egyptian mediators have been working to avoid further bloodshed and ease Israeli restrictions on Gaza.

Leaders of Gazan armed groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad said that progress had been made in the truce talks.

Security has been a prominent issue in the build-up to Israeli elections due on April 9, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's handling of the Gaza situation will be a key issue as he seeks a fifth term in office.

 
 
 
 

The protests call for the lifting of a security blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt, and for Palestinians to have the right to return to land from which their families fled or were forced to flee during Israel's founding in 1948.

Israel rejects that demand, saying that would eliminate its Jewish majority.

Over two million Palestinians are packed into the Gaza Strip, a narrow coastal enclave where poverty and unemployment rates are high.

The Islamist Hamas group rules the territory and has fought three wars with Israel in the past decade.

Israel seized Gaza in a 1967 war and pulled out its troops in 2005.

The security blockade, it has said, is necessary to stop weapons from reaching Hamas and other armed groups, which have fired thousands of rockets into Israel.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 31, 2019, with the headline 'Palestinians mark protest anniversary at Gaza border'. Print Edition | Subscribe