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Thousands of Palestinians protest on the Gaza border with Israel, one dead

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA BORDER (Reuters) – A Palestinian died and more than 200 were injured during clashes with Israeli troops while thousands gathered in protest along the Gaza-Israel border. Friday, Gaza officials said.

Palestinians threw stones and burned tires near the border fence, where snipers of the Israeli army were deployed. Some in the crowd threw firebombs and an explosive device and tried to cross into Israel, according to the Israeli army.

Palestinian medical officials said Israeli troops opened fire on protesters, killed one and wounded 220.

An Israeli military spokesman protesters responded "with riot dispersal means while firing in accordance with the rules of engagement "

The Palestinians arrived en masse at camps near the border as a protest called "The Great Return March". "- evoking a long-standing call for refugees to recover their ancestral homes in what is now Israel – moved on to their third week.

Israeli troops have shot and killed 31 Palestinians from Gaza and wounded hundreds from that the protests began, drawing international criticism about lethal tactics used against them.

On Friday, groups of young people waved Palestinian flags and burned hundreds of tires and Israeli flags near the border fenced after the PF iday and prayers In a camp east of Gaza City, the young men carried on their shoulders a coffin wrapped in an Israeli flag with the words "The end of Israel."

Israel declared a no-go zone near the Gaza border fence. [19659010] No Israeli has been killed during demonstrations, and human rights groups say the Israeli army has used live fire on demonstrators that do not pose an immediate threat to life.

Israel says it is doing what it must to defend its border, and stop any of the protesters crossing the fence.

The planned six-week protest has revived a long-standing demand for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to cities and towns from which their families fled, or were expelled, when the state of Israel was created 70 years ago .

The protest began on March 30, and is expected to end on May 15.

"CATASTROPHE" OF 1948

That is the day when the Palestinians will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the "Nakba" or "Catastrophe", when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced in the midst of the violence that culminated in the war between the newly created Israel and its Arab neighbors in May 1948.

Successive Israeli governments have ruled out any right of return, fearing that the country would lose its Jewish majority. [19659017] "Some people think that we are idiots to think that the Israelis will allow us to enter, it is possible that we will not, but we will not stop trying to go back," said one demonstrator, the 37-year-old official Ahmed, as he stood at the top of a hill overlooking the Israeli fence.

Like most of the 2 million Palestinians huddled in the small and impoverished Gaza Strip, Ahmed is a descendant of refugees from Jaffa, a coastal city in Israel just south of Tel Aviv.

"No peace, no jobs, no unity and no future, then what difference would death cause? If we are going to die, do not be in vain," said Ahmed, who refused to give his full name, for fear of Israeli reprisals.

The Israeli government accuses Hamas, the Islamist movement that has ruled Gaza to a large extent since Israel soldiers and settlers withdrew in 2005, from instigating the protests and using them as a cover to launch attacks.

"Israel will continue to defend its borders and its citizens, its country would do the same," said a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry on Twitter.

The Israeli army has shown video footage of the cutting of the border fence during recent clashes, with, says Israel, explosives planted there to target its troops.

(Report by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Mark Heinrich edition)


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