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Gaza death toll climbs to 22 as Israeli forces continue violent suppression of protests

April 6, 2018 4:03 P.M. (Updated: April 8, 2018 1:15 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces shot and killed one Palestinian along the border of the southern Gaza Strip, east of Khan Younis, during mass demonstrations on Friday, while another Palestinian succumbed to wounds sustained last week, bringing the death toll in Gaza to 22 since thousands of Palestinians in Gaza launched the “Great March of Return” on March 30.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that Usama Khamis Qudeih, 39, was killed around 3:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon in protests along the southern Gaza border.

Earlier on Friday, a Palestinian identified as Thaer Rabia from the northern Gaza Strip town of Jabaliya, succumbed to wounds sustained during Friday protests one week ago, bringing the death toll to 22 Palestinian civilians killed in one week.

Meanwhile, the ministry reported that 40 protesters were injured with live ammunition.

Friday’s protests marked one week since the beginning of the "Great March of Return," a weeks-long protests in which almost 1.3 million of Gaza’s 2 million inhabitants who are refugees are demanding their right to return to their original homelands.

The six-week protest is set to end on May 15th, the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, or “catastrophe,” when the state of Israel was created, leaving some 750,000 Palestinians and millions of their descendants as refugees.

Palestinians have nicknamed this Friday's demonstration "Jumaa al-Kawshook", which translates to "Friday of Tires", as protesters set fire to thousands of tires along the border, creating huge clouds of black smoke in order to confuse Israeli snipers and prevent them from targeting protesters with live ammunition.

Some have also called Friday’s protest “Black Friday.”

On the first day of protests last week, Israeli forces killed 16 Palestinians and injured over 1,000 more with live fire, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear gas.

Despite widespread outcry from international rights groups who have condemned Israel’s excessive use of forces against the civilian protesters, Israeli has maintained its open-fire rules for the Gaza border.

On Thursday, Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem launched a campaign entitled “Sorry Commander, I cannot shoot,” urging Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to shoot unarmed protesters in Gaza.

According to B’Tselem, the campaign will include advertisements in Israeli newspapers “clarifying to soldiers that they must refuse to open fire on unarmed demonstrators,” which the group argues are “manifestly illegal orders.”

B’Tselem criticized the Israeli military for announcing in advance that soldiers will use live fire against protesters, even if they are hundreds of meters away from the border fence, rather than taking steps to reduce the number of casualties.

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