Israeli army: 30,000 protesters at Gaza border

Around 200 Gazans have been killed by Israeli troops since the protests started on March 30 a year ago, according to Palestinian Health Ministry figures. No casualties were reported from either the rockets or tank fire.

Tens of thousands of Gazans gathered at the Israeli border on March 30 to mark a year since protests and clashes erupted there, testing a fragile truce only 10 days ahead of an Israeli general election. The Israeli military said 40,000 people had gathered in the frontier area but that majority were keeping away from the border. Israel fired on Hamas posts in response.

Khalil al-Hayya, another senior figure in the Islamist movement, said they were expecting to receive a timetable from Israel on Sunday.

The demonstrators are calling for Palestinians to be allowed to return to land their families fled or were expelled from during the 1948 war that accompanied Israel's creation.

The protests come after a tense week in which Palestinian militants fired rockets at Israel and Israel's air force struck dozens of sites in Gaza.

He said 195 Palestinians, including some 40 children, have been killed by Israeli forces and almost 29,000 Palestinians have been wounded, including 7,000 by live fire. Palestinians with knowledge of the talks have said that as part of the proposed deal, Gaza protesters were to keep away from the fence Saturday and Israeli snipers were to hold their fire.

Eager to get a big turnout on the anniversary, organisers set up loudspeakers at protest camps along the border, blaring out Palestinian nationalist songs at full volume. The Israeli forces responded with tear gas and live fire.

Netanyahu said the Israeli military's massive deployment had ensured violence at the protests remained relatively low. With a lack of alternatives, Netanyahu has been forced at times to rely on Hamas to maintain stability along Israel's volatile southern front.

A United Nations report presented in Geneva this month found that "Israeli soldiers committed violations of global human rights and humanitarian law". In Gaza previous year, the date was also used to highlight the Palestinian right of return.

Expecting the violence to continue escalating on Saturday, Israel had beefed up its forces at the border in preparation for the demonstration.

At least three Palestinians were reportedly killed during the rallies after the Israeli troops' crackdown on the protesters, who threw stones and explosive devices at the Israeli border.

Waving Palestinian flags, demonstrators chanted slogans for an end to the 12-year-long Israeli blockade on Gaza, according to an Anadolu Agency reporter in the area. In the evening, the ministry said another 17-year-old died hours after being shot in the chest in a different protest location. Palestinians have also launched incendiary balloons and kites into Israel and breached the Israeli frontier fence.

Weekly protests began on March 30, 2018, or Land Day, an annual commemoration of a 1976 incident in which Israeli troops shot and killed six people during protests over land confiscations.

Four Israeli soldiers were injured at the demonstrations.

The crossing had been closed on Monday after a rocket that wounded seven Israelis north of Tel Aviv touched off a two-day surge in cross-border violence.

  • Joey Payne