Gazans converge on Israel border amid ongoing rallies


Israeli soldiers have been shooting teargas and live bullets from throughout the boundary fencing.

Thousands of Palestinians gathered at the Israel-Gaza border on Friday, and violent clashes between Gazan protesters and Israeli forces were renewed for the third consecutive week.

Israeli forces have killed 33 Palestinians and wounded hundreds of others since protests that began on March 30 and have led to clashes.

On Friday, many demonstrators constructed in 5 tent camps located a few hundred meters (yards) from the border fence. Smaller groups moved closer to the fence, throwing stones, torching tires and burning large Israeli flags.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson confirmed Israeli troops used live fire and riot dispersal methods including tear gas at several points along the security fence.

There were so far fewer protesters on Friday than in the two previous demonstrations, which saw tens of thousands gather near the border with Israel at five locations.

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Even the marches are coordinated by Gaza's Islamic militant Hamas, however, turnout is also becoming pushed by desperation among the 2 million taxpayers of the territory.

The protests, planned to last six weeks, are calling for Palestinian refugees to return to their former homes that are now inside Israel - which Israelis say essentially amounts to calling for the country's destruction. As witnessed in the past weeks, these protests have the potential to become violent.

Israel has accused Hamas, which governs Gaza, of using the protests as a pretext for violence.

The Israeli government accuses Hamas, the Islamist movement that has ruled Gaza largely since Israeli soldiers and settlers withdrew in 2005, of having instigated the protests and of using them as cover to launch attacks.

Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade for a decade and unemployment is approaching 50 percent.

Why has Abbas gone silent on Gaza protests?

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According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, at least 30 Palestinians were injured on Friday amid attempts by the Israeli army to disperse demonstrators. "We came here so the world can see us and know that life here is miserable, and that there should be a solution".

"Some people believe we are idiots to think the Israelis will allow us in, they may not, but we will not stop trying to return", said a protester, 37-year-old civil servant Ahmed, as he stood on a hilltop overlooking the Israeli fence. More than 3,000 Palestinians have also been injured by Israeli gunfire. Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry said one Gazan was killed and another seriously wounded in the strike.

The Israeli rights group B'Tselem said Friday that open-fire policy must not be dictated by worst case scenarios, such as a feared mass breach of the border.

"Instructing snipers to shoot to kill unarmed demonstrators who pose no danger to human life, is another product of the occupation and military rule over millions of Palestinian people, as well as of our country's callous leadership, and derailed moral path", said the statement.

Demonstrators demand that Palestinian refugees be granted the "right of return" to their towns and villages in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.

The new US Embassy is due to be opened in Jerusalem on May 14.

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