United Nations urges Israel, Hamas to avoid violence on Gaza anniversary

Posted March 31, 2019

Ambulances lined up in front of clinics and police supervised encampments erected far from the fence.

The Gaza Strip's Islamist rulers Hamas, with which Israel has fought three wars since 2008, has called for one million people to join the demonstrations Saturday at different points along the border. A paramedic was struck in the foot with a tear gas canister fired directly at him.

Israel says the blockade is necessary to contain Hamas, which does not recognise its existence and argues that the return of the Palestinians would mean an end to it as a Jewish state.

In the final stretch of the campaign, Netanyahu needs to keep the Israel-Gaza frontier quiet, without seeming to make concessions to Hamas.

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Israel's lethal response has been criticized by human rights groups, who say it is targeting protesters who pose little threat to heavily-armed soldiers. "Why should our people suffer alone, they should suffer too", added the protester, who would not give his name, fearing Israeli reprisals.

The Israeli military estimated 40,000 Palestinians were gathered at the marches. "It has nothing to do with what the politicians do".

US President Donald Trump's administration is expected to present an outline of an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan shortly after Israel's April 9 election, although the Palestinian Authority has rejected US mediation over Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Some demonstrators each week burn tires, throw projectiles and rocks and even try to approach and break the Israeli border fence. "In addition, a number of grenades and explosive devices have been hurled at the Gaza Strip security fence".

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Gaza's health ministry said Belal al-Najjar, 17, was killed by an Israeli gunshot at one of five protest locations on Saturday.

Residents of Gaza have been increasingly desperate as a more than 10 years of an Israel-Egyptian blockade and three wars between Hamas and Israel have strangled the enclave's economy and severely damaged public infrastructure. With a lack of alternatives, Netanyahu has been forced at times to rely on Hamas to maintain stability along Israel's volatile southern front. Unemployment is over 50 percent, ground water has become undrinkable and electricity has turned into an intermittent luxury.

According to a Gaza rights group, 196 Palestinians have been killed in the demonstrations over the past year, including 41 minors, and thousands were wounded by live fire. An Israeli soldier was also killed in the context of the marches.

Saleh Higazi, the deputy director of Amnesty for the Middle East and North Africa, said that the dimension and nature of wounds inflicted to Gaza demonstrators by Israeli forces "induce us to think that Israel adopted a deliberate strategy to mutilate civilians".

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He confirmed that Egypt had made progress towards a deal that media reports said would see Israel allow more Qatari aid into the strip and ease some restrictions.