Members of US Congress Release Statement on Gaza Protests


The marches are organized by Gaza's Islamic militant Hamas, but turnout is also being driven by desperation among the territory's 2 million residents.

Gaza's Health Ministry said that at least 701 people were wounded on Friday (Saturday NZT), including 163 by live fire and the rest by tear gas or rubber-coated steel pellets.

More than 30 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire since the start of "Flag Friday" demonstrations two weeks ago. Therefore, the number of people killed since the demonstrations began March 30 increased to 28.

At least one Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire in a protest at the Gaza-Israel border.

Mohammed al-Hajjar, a Palestinian photographer for the news website Middle East Eye, was lightly injured by a live round that grazed his right arm while he was covering protests east of Gaza city, according to his employer, the PJS, and news reports.

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Others hurled stones and burning tyres near the frontier fence, where Israeli army sharpshooters are deployed. "In light of these [Hamas] intentions, the IDF again warns against approaching the security fence: Do not allow Hamas to exploit you to commit attacks because you are the ones who will pay the price".

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

Thousands of Palestinians gathered at five tent camps, several hundred meters (yards) from the border fence. So far 34 Palestinians have been killed in the protests, which they call the Great Return March.

The official end date of the protests is May 15, when Palestinians mark the Nakba, or "catastrophe", commemorating the more than 700,000 who fled or were expelled during the 1948 war surrounding Israel's creation.

On Friday, hundreds flocked to one of five camps near Gaza City, stepping on a large Israeli flag laid out on the ground at the entrance.

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The protests, dubbed "The March of Return", have resulted in confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli troops.

"The national struggle and defending the refugees' right to return are not limited to men".

Sitting under the shade of trees near the kibbutz of Nahal Oz, he said: "Using live fire is a last resort". He said the Israeli military is "operating against it (Hamas) with determination and according to worldwide law".

"Israel is treating the protest in Gaza as it has handled similar events in the past: Broad, unlawful use of lethal force at a heavy price to lives, baseless legal interpretations issued to justify this policy, and whitewashing the crimes within days", declared the Israel-based group B'Tselem.

The group has been criticised in Israel for publishing often anonymous testimony by current or former Israeli soldiers who have misgivings about their military service and treatment of Palestinians. He was shot in the abdomen by an Israeli sniper Friday, April 7, while wearing a flak vest clearly marked "Press" and holding his Canon 5D camera.

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