Deaths on Gaza Border as Palestinian Jerusalem Embassy Protests Worsen

Israeli forces have warned Palestinian protesters at the Gaza Strip that anyone approaching the border fence risks their life, as the country prepares to face more than 100,000 demonstrators on Monday.

Israel Defense Force (IDF) jets dropped leaflets on Gaza, urging residents to avoid the crowds expected to converge on the Israel-Gaza border fence, the Associated Press reported. At least 28 protesters have been killed so far today, with close to 1,700 injured, The Times of Israel reported. The IDF said that three of the dead were killed while planting a bomb.

The protests, which began on March 30, are demanding the right of return for all Palestinian refugees who left or were forced to leave their homes in 1948, when Israel was created.

Palestinian protesters at the Israel-Gaza border, at the southern Gaza Strip, on April 5. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

The movement may reach its climax on Tuesday, when Palestinians mark Nakba—or "catastrophe"—Day, the anniversary of the exodus of 750,000 Palestinians from what is now Israel. The opening of the controversial U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem adds fuel to a blazing fire.

The warning leaflets said those approaching the fence would "jeopardize" their lives, noting that Israeli forces were "prepared to face all scenarios and will act against every attempt to damage the security fence or harm IDF soldiers or Israeli civilians." At least 47 people have been killed by IDF fire since the protests began, with nearly 7,000 more injured.

The IDF expects more than 100,000 demonstrators to travel to the border fence on Monday, The Times of Israel reported. The military has deployed 11 battalions along the border in response, some of which were withdrawn from training for the deployment.

Read more: What do Palestinian protesters want?

Israel has consistently refused to acknowledge the right of return for Palestinian refugees for fear that a mass movement across the border would make Israeli Jews a minority in the country. The leaflets denounced protesters as "rioters" who "serve as a tool for Hamas." Israel said the Islamist group, which controls the Gaza Strip and its 2 million people, is using the demonstrations as a cover to launch attacks on Israel.

The IDF claimed that only those who targeted the border fence or its soldiers were shot. Officials cited the burning tires, rocks, kite bombs and improvised explosive devices as proof that the protesters were not peaceful. Human rights groups said Israel was using disproportionate force against unarmed people who did not constitute a threat, including children and journalists.

The protests have been stoked by dire conditions at the Gaza Strip, which has been under blockade by Israel and Egypt since 2006 in an attempt to degrade the military capabilities of Hamas. As a result, its residents suffer fuel shortages, electricity cuts, high unemployment and crumbling infrastructure.

Israeli soldiers on the Israeli side of the border with the northern Gaza Strip on March 30. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

There are fears that demonstrators may attempt to break through the fence and enter Israel. Last week, Hamas's leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, said, "What's the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through a fence that is not a border?" Such an action would no doubt be met with live fire from the IDF, leaving many more dead and wounded.

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On Sunday, the IDF released footage that allegedly showed Hamas removing military positions along the border, which could indicate it does not intend to exercise any control over demonstrators.

Other protests are being organized throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem as Palestinians lend support to the demonstrators in Gaza. Security is high in Jerusalem as the city hosts the American delegation to the embassy's opening ceremony, which includes President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

This article is a breaking story and will be updated as more information becomes available.