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Gaza Protesters Killed Amid Standoff Between Israel and Thousands of Palestinians Demanding Rights

At least five Palestinians were shot dead on Friday as thousands marched to the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. The Palestinian Health Ministry claimed that at least seven people were killed and around 350 people wounded after the Israeli military opened fire on protesters. One of the dead was reportedly a 16-year-old boy.

The Israeli military announced that rioting had taken place in six locations and that its forces had fired at the instigators.

The news comes as Palestinians begin a protest that is meant to last for weeks, leading up to the opening ceremony of a new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Thousands of Palestinians, including women and children, will be camped along the border separating Gaza from Israel. In response, Israel deployed at least 100 sharpshooters and other forces along the border area.

The protests are meant to highlight the plight of Palestinians living in Gaza and also to oppose President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem, half of which was envisioned as the capital of a future Palestinian state, as the capital of Israel. Palestinians are also demanding their right to return to Israel. 

Experts say the violence that has already taken place on Friday, and which will likely continue over the coming weeks, is a sign that Israel is not effectively addressing the real grievances of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

“In a warning to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu a few years ago, [former Secretary of State John] Kerry asked what Israel would do if it was confronted by thousands of unarmed Palestinians marching and demanding their rights. Today these warnings seem to be, momentarily at least, materializing. We are also getting the Israeli answer in the form of live shootings of Palestinians,” Hugh Lovatt, a policy fellow focusing on Israel and Palestine with the European Council for Foreign Relations, told Newsweek.

“Although Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Gaza have reportedly helped mobilize protests, this does not lessen the genuine grievances, frustration and anger that average Gazans feel as the result of the humanitarian crisis and lack of political solutions—two factors that have arguably done far more to energize today’s protests,” Lovatt indicated.

There are currently estimated to be around 17,000 people marching along the Gaza-Israel border.

In a separate incident on Friday, a Palestinian farmer was killed by an Israeli tank shell as he plowed his field in Gaza. 

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