Palestinians Wounded On Gaza Border As Third Week Of Protests Begins

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Israeli troops shot and wounded 30 Palestinians during a large protest on the Gaza-Israel border yesterday in which demonstrators hurled stones and burning tyres near the frontier fence, Palestinian medics said.

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"IDF troops are responding with riot dispersal means and are firing in accordance with the rules of engagement".

On Friday, the turnout seemed to be significantly lower than on previous Fridays - some 10,000 protesters according to the Israeli military - raising questions about the organizers' goal of keeping the mass marches going until mid-May.

In the northern Gaza Strip, Sumaya Abu Awad, 36, attended the protest with her three daughters and son.

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Another Israeli group, Breaking The Silence, published a statement by five former snipers in the Israeli military who said they were "filled with shame and sorrow" over the recent incidents in Gaza. "I am not afraid of death because there is no life in Gaza".

The goal of the "March of Return" protests, Palestinians say, is to cross the border fence and return to what they say are their lands, which became part of Israel seven decades ago.

Thousands of Palestinians gathered at five tent camps, several hundred meters (yards) from the border fence. Some protesters burned tires, Israeli flags and threw rocks. One of them, Yasser Murtaja, a photographer for "Ain Media" who was reportedly wearing a helmet and vest clearly marked "PRESS" when he was shot, later died of his wounds.

Yair Lapid, the leader of Israel's centrist Yesh Atid party, called Hamas a "despicable terror organization" and accused it of exploiting civilians.

Palestinian girls at the Return March protest camp hold a sign that says "We'll return to Al Majdal".

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"We want to live like everyone else in the world", he said.

Rights groups have strongly criticized Israeli forces while pointing to unverified videos that have spread online of Gazans appearing to be shot, including one seeming to show a Palestinian targeted as he ran away from the fence while holding a tire.

Israel blames Hamas and Islamic Jihad for the violence, and has said those killed were "known terrorists".

Friday's demonstration is the third consecutive week Israeli snipers have opened fire on unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza.

The new US Embassy is due to be opened in Jerusalem on May 14. That is the day Palestinians will mark the 70th anniversary of the "Nakba" or "Catastrophe", when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced amid violence culminating in war between newly created Israel and its Arab neighbors in May 1948.

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