At least 170 Palestinians have been injured today, including journalists and medical staff, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health as thousands protested once again on the Gaza border as part of the Great March of Return.
As of the 5:30pm local time, the Palestinian Red Crescent said it was dealing with at least 22 injuries which had been caused by Israel firing live ammunition, while others where the result of firing rubber-coated steel bullets of canisters of tear gas.
At least three journalists, Abdel Rahim Al-Khatib, Suleiman Abu Zarif and Hamza Al-Shaami, have been injured after Khan Younis was bombarded with canisters of tear gas. Some 70 journalists have been wounded by Israeli forces since the march began five weeks ago.
One paramedic is also suffering from suffocation after Israel fired tear gas at medical tents aiding the injured along the border. Gaza health authorities have accused the occupation of deliberately targeting medics, with some 44 wounded over the past month and 19 ambulances attacked.
An Israeli drone was also downed by Palestinian protesters earlier today near Rafah. Used to film the masses of Gazans gathering at the border, protesters reportedly threw stones causing the aircraft to fall, marking the second drone to have been downed near Khan Younis.
Today’s march, following Labour Day earlier this week, was dubbed the “Friday of Palestinian Workers” and aimed to draw attention to the difficult economics conditions faced by Palestinians in Gaza. Over 40 per cent of the Strip’s population is unemployed, with the figure rising for the youth. Nearly two in three young Gazans are unable to find steady, permanent work, despite being highly qualified.
Palestinian Authority (PA) civil servants in the Gaza Strip have also suffered from repeated salary cuts, in an attempt to pressure Hamas to reconcile with the West Bank authority. With the blockade now in its eleventh year, international agencies have warned that Gaza is de-developing at a rapid rate.
Some 6,800 Gazans have been wounded during the demonstrations and at least 49 people have been killed by Israeli forces over the past six weeks. Israel’s Channel 20 reported earlier today that the military was also deploying over 200 snipers along the border in order to target Palestinian youths releasing kites; Israel claims they are used to film soldiers on the border.
Concerns have also been raised over the type of wounds being caused by Israeli forces; over 1,700 people have been wounded as a result of live fire, with Israeli forces using the “butterfly bullet” that explodes after becoming lodged in the victim, resulting in irreparable damage to the tissue. Gaza doctors say they have not seen such severe wounds since Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” war in 2014.
The Israeli army’s disproportionate use of force during the protests has drawn international criticism and calls for an independent probe – which Israel has rejected.
Last week, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem published a letter they have sent to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urging intervention to stop Israel’s use of lethal force against Palestinian protesters in the occupied Gaza Strip.
“These orders are unlawful under both international law and Israeli law. Responsibility for these fatal outcomes rests with the policy makers and – above all – with Israel’s prime minister, defence minister and chief of staff,” it continued.
The planned six-week protest, which began on 30 March marking Palestinian Land Day, is set to end next week 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.