GAZA CITY – Two Palestinians succumbed early Saturday to wounds suffered in a protest on the border fence with Israel a day earlier, including a journalist shot by Israeli forces despite apparently wearing a vest that clearly I identified it as a press.
Video and photos of Yasser Murtaja, 31, who was treated after suffering a bullet wound to the lower abdomen, including a shot from the Agence France-Presse news agency, shows him wearing a protective jacket blue and white with "PRESS" stamped on The front.
Murtaja, who worked for a Gaza-based news agency called Ain Media, was one of six Palestinian journalists shot, according to the Union of Palestinian Journalists, which said that all were clearly identifiable as media. The Israeli army has maintained that the attack against the border crowds is carefully targeted. He could not give an immediate comment on how six journalists could have been shot.
"He was kind, gentle and affectionate, eager to become the best journalist he could be, because his goal was always to document the suffering of the Palestinian people." Said Rori Donaghy, Middle East consultant and former news editor at the Middle East Eye website, which spent time with Murtaja in Gaza. "It's really sad."
The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said that a total of 491 Palestinians suffered gunshot wounds on Friday, while tens of thousands of protesters gathered at the border for "Tire Friday", burning piles of tires in an attempt to protect themselves from Israeli snipers during protests.
Hamza Abdul All, a 20-year-old from central Gaza, also died from his injuries during the night, raising to nine the total number of Palestinians killed in Friday's rioting on the fence border. A total of 31 people were killed over the course of a week when Israeli forces fired live ammunition into the crowd.
Residents of the blockaded Gaza started what has been announced as six weeks of demonstrations against Israel a week ago. The protests are backed by Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, along with other main Palestinian factions.
The Israeli army says it is forced to use live ammunition since Hamas, which Israel and the United States classify as a terrorist organization, is using the demonstrations as a cover for launching attacks, including attempts to place explosives on the border and One shot attack on the first day. He has maintained that the shooting is aimed and is the last resort used to protect the fence, its soldiers and the Israeli communities on the other side.
The majority of the crowd has been peaceful and the "Return March" has attracted families to the border, as well as demonstrators for the first time in what appears to be a large cross-section of Palestinians in Gaza. However, crowds of mostly young men near the fence have thrown stones and Molotov cocktails.
After the first day of disturbances at the border a week ago, the account of the official spokesman of the Israel Defense Force tweeted that the military knew where "each bullet landed". However, the tweet was removed later.
The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza has said that more than 1,000 Palestinians have been shot at during seven days of demonstrations on the fence.
The Israeli army has said that the numbers should be treated with "extreme caution". While they are difficult to verify completely, the accounts of paramedics, medical officers, surgeons, hospital records and the great rate of bullet wounds that come from the crowd at the points during the protests have pointed to similarly high figures. Most of those injured with live ammunition were shot in the legs in an apparent strategy by Israeli forces to aim largely at the lower extremities.
The Israeli army had launched leaflets in preparation for the protest to instruct the Palestinians to remain at least 300 meters from the fence.
Adel Zanoun, an AFP journalist who heads the Gaza Media Freedom Center, which offers journalism training for Gazans, said his 21-year-old cousin Ibrahim Zanoun was among the wounded. He is in the hospital waiting for surgery after being shot in the hand, he said. He had trained at the center and was working as an independent photographer.
"It had just started," Zanoun said.
Freelancers Ezz Abu Shanab and Adham Hajjar were also among those shots, as were Khalil Abu Athra, who worked for the television channel Haqas Aqsa TV, and Mohamed Saber Noraldin, 32, a photojournalist at the European Agency of Photography.
Israel has said that there were at least 10 "known terrorists" killed on the first day of the demonstrations as evidence that their shooting is targeted. Hamas said five members of its military wing were killed a week ago. On Friday he told his supporters to cover their faces, amid speculation that Israeli snipers intercepted known militants in the crowd, while firing at other protesters in the legs.
Israel has remained defiant amid calls for an independent investigation into the use of live ammunition, including the United Nations. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the action of Israeli troops.
"Yesterday, once again, the Israeli military used lethal force without justification," said Amit Gilutz, of the Israeli human rights organization B & # 39; Tselem, which launched an advertising campaign to ask soldiers to come forward. refuse to shoot at unarmed demonstrators in Gaza. "Shooting live ammunition at unarmed demonstrators who do not pose a threat is immoral, and a commanding order is manifestly illegal."
Hazem Balousha in the city of Gaza and Sufian Taha in Jerusalem contributed to this story.