Israeli forces stationed on the Gaza frontier have killed one person and wounded hundreds of Palestinians, who were demonstrating for the third week in a row.
Health officials in Gaza said 363 people were injured by live ammunition and tear gas inhalation, although they did not provide a breakdown. They said a Gazan journalist was in a serious condition after being shot in the abdomen.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society, a humanitarian organization, has said one of its medics was shot in the knee.
Rights groups accuse Israel of wanton use of live fire. Israel says the protests are a cynical ploy by Gaza’s rulers Hamas to stage attacks, including using explosives or to breach the border.
Close to 30 Palestinians – including Hamas militants, civilians, and a video reporter – have been killed during the rallies, which started on 30 March.
At five spots along the frontier, tent complexes have been erected hundreds of meters from the border where families have gathered. Crowds of mostly young men have moved closer, slinging stones, torching tires and setting Israeli flags alight.
East of Gaza City in the northern part of the coastal enclave, ambulances brought the injured to a field hospital where paramedics rushed to attend floods of patients.
Several men, bandages wrapped around their calves and ankles, had been shot. One lay unconscious after a bullet had passed through his lower torso.
Outside, at the entrance to the area, a large Israeli flag had been placed on the ground for people to walk over. And closer, across the beige and green fields towards the perimeter, thick black smoke from burning tires rose high, the seaside winds pushing it into the skies above Israel.
The protests began as a plan to peacefully gather near the border, an idea that has since been supported by Hamas and other political parties. Thousands have called for the “right of return” for refugees and their descendants to ancestral homes in Israel
Across the fence on the Israeli side, sniper teams lay low on sandbanks overlooking the area.
An Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) official, speaking on condition of anonymity, refused to detail specific rules for engagement that admitted live sniper fire or say how many people had been shot.
Sitting under the shade of trees near the kibbutz of Nahal Oz, he said: “Using live fire is the last resort. Obviously, I’m not talking about a terrorist shooting but a person trying to approach the fence, cut the fence, throw a hand grenade.”
All targets were chosen by commanders and shot by “well-trained” teams, he added, and every bullet fired had been recorded.