Protests have continued to take place on the Gaza border as thousands of Palestinians demonstrate for the third Friday as part of the Great March of Return.
As of 4pm local time (14:00 GMT), some 350 people were injured today, adding to the over 3,000 Palestinians who have been wounded over the past two weeks. There are reports that Israeli soldiers have fired teargas at the field hospital in the east of Khan Yunis causing at least ten medics to experience suffocation. Palestinian journalist Ahmad Abu Hussein and photographer Mohammed Al-Hajjar have also been shot, adding to the growing list of reporters wounded whilst documenting the protests.
Many of the protesters have burnt tyres in an attempt to hide themselves from Israeli snipers. Near Khan Yunis in the south, protesters also burned pictures of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, whom they view as cooperating with Israel.
Gaza now, drone photos. pic.twitter.com/d7t60Pd9Wq
— E M Y / GAZA 🇵🇸 (@EmyPalestine) April 13, 2018
Israel has deployed additional military forces to the Gaza border in preparation for planned protests since last week as part of the Great March of Return. Demonstrators are calling for the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to the homes they were forced to flee in 1948.
Israeli authorities have permitted soldiers to shoot at anyone who approaches the Gaza side of the fence, despite widespread condemnation from NGOs and the UN over the practice. Last week, Israeli rights group B’Tselem appealed to Israeli soldiers to refuse any “grossly illegal” orders to fire at unarmed protesters.
The Gaza Ministry of Health announced that hospitals and medical personnel were on high alert as of this morning to deal with the anticipated influx of casualties. The UN has also highlighted the region’s strained resources in delivering treatment to the wounded.
“Gaza’s health sector has struggled to cope with the mass influx of casualties, due to years of blockade, internal divide and a chronic energy crisis, which have left essential services in Gaza barely able to function,” the UN agency said in a statement today.
Last week’s protest was marked by the death of journalist Yaser Murtaja who was shot despite clearly wearing a vest marked “PRESS”. Photos also emerged of Israeli settlers gathering at a military watchtower to cheer as soldiers shot civilians, as well as a video of soldiers celebrating the shooting of a Palestinian protester.
Israeli occupying forces are also quashing solidarity protests in the West Bank, with at least one journalist, Ramez Awwad, reportedly injured by live fire in the city of Al-Bireh.
The planned six-week protest, which began on 30 March marking Palestinian Land Day, is set to end on 15 May – the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe), in which more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced by Jewish militias in 1948 to make way for the formation of the state of Israel.