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  • A funeral was held Saturday for a Palestinian man shot dead Friday during weekly protests held at the fortified Gaza Strip border.

    A funeral was held Saturday for a Palestinian man shot dead Friday during weekly protests held at the fortified Gaza Strip border. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 March 2019

Gaza health authorities said some 200 people have been killed since Palestinians launched weekly border protests March 30 last year.

After days of rising tensions along the frontier, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian and wounded 42 others taking part in weekly protests Friday at the fortified Gaza Strip border, the Palestinian health ministry said.

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Tamer Arafat, 23, died Friday during the 50th week of demonstrations, the spokesman for the ministry said on Twitter, adding that 48 Palestinians -- including four medics, two women and 15 children -- had been injured by Israeli gunfire.

The Israeli military said over 8,000 Palestinians took part in the demonstration, throwing rocks and explosives toward soldiers, and that some tried to breach the fence into Israel.

A spokesman for the military said troops “responded with riot dispersal means and fired in accordance with standard operating procedures.”

Cross-border violence has increased in recent days. Israel’s military said Thursday it had carried out airstrikes on a compound belonging to Hamas, the Islamic resistance group which governs Gaza, after explosives attached to balloons were launched from the coastal enclave toward Israel.

Gaza health authorities said some 200 people have been killed since Palestinians launched weekly border protests March 30 last year. They are demanding the right to return to land from which their ancestors fled or were forced to flee during Israel’s founding in 1948.

About 60 other Palestinians have been killed in other incidents, including exchanges of fire across the border. An Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper along the frontier and another was killed during an undercover raid into Gaza.

Israel says it has no choice but to use deadly force at the protests to defend the frontier from militants trying to destroy the barrier and infiltrate. But its tactics against the protests have drawn international condemnation.

Independent United Nations investigators last week released a report saying that Israeli security forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in killing scores of Palestinians at weekly protests in Gaza last year.

"The commission has found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli security forces committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. These violations clearly warrant criminal investigation and prosecution and we call on Israel to conduct meaningful investigations into these serious violations and to provide timely justice and reparations for those killed and injured."

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The head of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Michelle Bachelet Wednesday called for both Israel and Palestine to exercise restraint before the first anniversary of the Gaza protests March 30.

Bachelet said that Israel may have committed war crimes by using live fire against protesters in Gaza, killing 189 Palestinians, including doctors and journalists, and recommended the country be referred to the International Criminal Court.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the report and accused the U.N. Human Rights Council, which launched the probe, of hypocrisy and lies fueled by “an obsessive hatred for Israel.”

The UNHRC chief said she regretted Israel's "immediate dismissal" of the report "without addressing any of the very serious issues raised."

Since the start of the Great March of Return protests, the besieged Gaza strip has seen weekly protests Fridays -- in which a violent Israeli crackdown has claimed around 200 Palestinian lives. Protesters have been demanding the removal of the blockade on Gaza and the return of Palestinian refugees.

Palestinians say the protests are led by civil society groups demanding an easing of the blockade and recognition of their right to return to their homes and villages in Israel, which their ancestors were displaced from by Zionist groups and later by the Israeli government itself upon the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948.

Israel and Egypt imposed a security blockade on the enclave after Hamas seized control of it in 2007, which the World Bank says has reduced the Gaza economy to a state of collapse. Israel has launched three attacks against Gaza in the past decade, killing and injuring thousands. 

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