Palestinians in Gaza return to border protests

Gaza: Gaza activists burned tires near the sealed border with Israel on Friday in a seventh weekly protest aimed at shaking off a decade-old blockade of their territory.

Israeli soldiers fired tear gas volleys from the other side of the border fence.

The protest came just three days ahead of what the leader of Gaza’s ruling Hamas group has said will be a march by tens of thousands who could burst through the border fence into Israel.

The crowd on Monday will be unarmed and peaceful, but like a “starving tiger” in pent-up anger and unpredictability, Yehiyeh Sinwar told foreign reporters Thursday.

Israel has warned protesters of a harsh response already having come under massive international criticism including from the UN accusing it of using excessive force on peaceful, unarmed protesters.

Rights group say the use of potentially lethal force against unarmed protesters is unlawful.

Since the protests began in late March, 40 Palestinians have been killed and more than 2,000 wounded by Israel army fire.

The protests, driven by despair among Gaza’s 2 million people, are part of a campaign to break the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after the Islamist militant Hamas overran Gaza in 2007.

There are growing concerns that if Israel and Hamas dig in, a widespread border breach in coming days could lead to large numbers of casualties.

Monday’s border march is meant to protest the controversial planned move of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Occupied Jerusalem that day.

The embassy’s inauguration comes five months after President Donald Trump recognised Occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move that is unprecedented and goes against decades of US policy.

The Israeli-occupied eastern sector of Jerusalem is sought as a future Palestinian capita.

Another large-scale protest is planned for Tuesday, when Palestinians mark their “nakba,” or catastrophe, referring to their mass uprooting following Israel’s 1948 creation.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven out or fled homes in what is now Israel.

More than two-thirds of Gaza residents are descendants of those refugees.

On Friday, hundreds of protesters gathered in five tent camps set up weeks ago, each several hundred metres from the border.

From one of the camps, east of Gaza City, dozens moved closer to the fence.

Some burned tires they had stashed in a ditch, releasing large plumes of black smoke. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas.

Witnesses said Israeli forces on the other side of the fence had added reinforcements, including cement slabs, as protective cover.