After more than 20 Palestinians were killed during protests along the Gaza border fence last Friday, all of whom were subsequently labeled as violent terrorists by the IDF, and hundreds more were wounded (many of them under the age of 18), thousands of Gazans marched to the border for the latest in a series of planned demonstrations leading up to the anniversary of Israel's founding on May 15.
Palestinians have a much different interpretation of that day: For them, it's the anniversary of the Nakba (literally "catastrophe") when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced from their land during the establishment of Israel.
The demonstrations, deemed "the Great Return March" by their organizers, are meant to agitate for "the right of return" - the ability for Palestinians to return to their ancestors' land.
Despite urging from the United Nations to ensure that the IDF refrains from using unnecessary lethal force, Israeli forces are once again hurling tear gas and using other "riot dispersal means" to handle crowds at five locations along the border, according to a series of tweets from the IDF.
Since this morning, hundreds of Palestinians have been rioting in five locations along the Gaza-Israel border. IDF troops are responding with riot dispersal means and fire in accordance with the rules of engagement.— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) April 6, 2018
The IDF will not allow any breach of security infrastructure or the security fence, which protects Israeli civilians. The IDF will act against those who are involved in these attacks.— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) April 6, 2018
According to RT, IDF soldiers have been given orders to shoot protesters who get too close to the border fence. The US has urged demonstrators to stay 500 meters from the fence. Meanwhile, human rights groups are urging soldiers to refuse orders to fire on demonstrators. Hamas, the party that controls Gaza, has called for the International Criminal Court to investigate last week's deaths.
Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Tuesday that anybody who comes too close to the fence "will endanger their lives."
"We have set very clear rules [of engagement] and we have no intention of changing them," he said. "We are determined to protect the security of Israeli citizens, of course, first and foremost, in the area of Gaza, and there will be no compromise on this issue, no flexibility."
Liz Throssell, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, reminded Israel of "its obligations to ensure that excessive force is not employed against protesters and that in the context of a military occupation, as is the case in Gaza, the unjustified and unlawful recourse to firearms by law enforcement resulting in death may amount to a willful killing, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention," per Al Jazeera.
Gazans have set up several tent encampments along the border. Hundreds gathered near Khuzaa, one area along the border, before noon prayer on Friday.
According to the latest updates from AJ, at least five Palestinians have been wounded so far by live ammunition. Palestinians are gathering hundreds of tires, which they plan to burn to create a smokescreen to stop Israeli snipers from picking off demonstrators.
Watch a live feed of the demonstrations below:
Gazans demands to return to Israel are understandable given that the UN has ruled that Gaza City, one of the most densely populated areas on the planet, could become unlivable within three years.
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