Israeli troops kill three protesters, injure 600 during 'riots' along Gaza border

Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza attempt to sabotage the border fence with Israel

Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza attempt to sabotage the border fence with Israel

Israeli soldiers fired bullets and tear gas at thousands of Palestinian protesters at the Gaza-Israel border on Friday, wounding almost 200 people, hours after the United Nations human rights chief criticized Israel for using "excessive force".

Gaza's health ministry says three Palestinians have been killed and more than 600 injured, following intensifying conflicts along the Israeli border.

Today's protests are titled "the Friday of Rebellious Youth", the organizers said, adding the protests are dedicated to honor the 40 protesters, who have been fatally shot by Israeli occupation forces since the outbreak of protests on March 30.

Screenshot from IDF video showing Palestinians at the Gaza Israel border fence
Screenshot from IDF video showing Palestinians at the Gaza Israel border fence

The death toll includes 35 people killed during demonstrations as part of the "Great March of Return" - evoking a longtime call for refugees to regain ancestral homes in what is now Israel - and appear to have been unarmed and no imminent threat to Israeli security forces, the statement said.

The IDF said that the airstrikes were a response to attempts to breach Israel's border fence with Gaza at the protest earlier Friday.

The Health Ministry said the child was shot in the head, and was rushed to the Gaza European Hospital, where he underwent an urgent surgery, but remained in a very critical condition until he succumbed to his wounds. Hamas says the protests are against a decade-long blockade of the isolated strip.

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Israel has rejected the worldwide criticism, saying it is defending its sovereign border and accusing Gaza's Hamas leaders, who are organising the protests, of using the crowds as cover to carry out attacks. Hundreds more were hit by rubber-encased steel bullets or are suffering tear gas exposure, after Israeli forces showered the area with tear gas canisters from behind their heavily fortified positions.

The demonstrations, entering their fifth-week, have left a total of 45 Palestinians dead, with a reported 5,500 injured.

Israeli officials have said that some of the protesters in recent weeks tried to damage the border fence or plant explosives along it. Others have tried to set Israeli fields on fire on the other side of the fence by hurling improvised explosives or firebombs, or flying flaming kites.

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On Thursday, Israel's United Nations envoy, Danny Danon, told the Security Council that Hamas was responsible for Palestinian casualties, and accused the group of "hiding" far from the bloodshed while Palestinians died.

Citing protesters armed with "wire cutters, hooks and winches", the Times quotes Lt. Colonel Jonathon Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, who describes the peaceful protests as "the first time we've seen this kind of synchronized and focused attack on the fence".

Hamas denies the Israeli accusations.

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They will culminate on 15 May, the 70th annual commemoration of what Palestinians call the Nakba, or Catastrophe, of the displacement of hundreds of thousands of their people in the war which followed Israel's creation in 1948.

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