Update: 4 Palestinians were killed during the protest on April 20, not 2 as stated in the original version of this page.
Protests have continued to take place on the Gaza border today as thousands of Palestinians demonstrate for the fourth week as part of the "Great March of Return", leaving at least two dead and dozens injured.
Twenty-five-year-old Ahmed Abu Aqel and 24-year-old Ahmad Rashad Al-Athanna were killed earlier today after being shot by Israeli snipers, raising the death toll to 35. As of 3pm local time, some 40 others have been injured, adding to 4,279 people that have been wounded in the past three weeks. Several of the injuries were caused after Israeli occupation forces fired a barrage of gas canisters to disperse protesters.
According to Hebrew news site Walla, Israeli forces have been forced to evacuate one area of the border after protesters burned tyres in an effort to reach the fence, with the fumes drifting into the small kibbutz of Alumim.
Pictures of the ongoing protests of the #GreatReturnMarch at the eastern border of the Gaza Strip, as they continue for the fourth consecutive Friday.
The protesters are calling for the right of return of the refugees to their pre-1948 homes. pic.twitter.com/AEuVDWNSBz
— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) April 20, 2018
Arab media reported today that Israeli forces had positioned some 120 snipers on the border in preparation for the demonstrations. 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.
UN official: Israel crackdown on Gaza protests is 'crisis on top of a catastrophe'
In preparation for the expected protests, Israeli authorities also dropped leaflets in Gaza overnight warning people against attending demonstrations and accusing the protests of being a front for Hamas to attack the border.
"Avoid using weapons and carrying out violent acts against Israeli security forces and Israeli civilians. Keep away from terrorist elements and groups pushing riots and violence. The IDF [army] will take action against any attempt to damage the barrier and its components and any other military equipment," the leaflet stated.
Earlier this week, UN human rights experts condemned "the continued use of firearms, including live ammunition" by Israeli forces "against mostly unarmed Palestinian protesters and observers", calling on Israel to uphold its responsibilities under international law.
"If Israel will not take credible and effective steps to investigate, and indeed, where it has congratulated its military forces for their use of force, then the international community must fill the investigatory void to ensure respect for international law," the experts stated, referring to a video of soldiers celebrating the shooting of a Palestinian two weeks ago.
The Gaza Ministry of Health has also accused the Israeli occupation of deliberately targeting journalists and medics as one journalist was killed, 66 journalists and 44 medics were wounded and 19 ambulances were targeted.
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 Israeli forces in 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
Media freedom watchdog warns of more Israel attacks on journalists in Gaza