Thousands at Gaza border protests as Palestinians mark 71 years of displacement

Tear gas fired by Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers arcs down on to the protesters to stop them from getting too close to the fence.

Up to 50 people have been injured in protests at the Gaza border as Palestinians mark what is known as Nakba Day – the 71st anniversary of their displacement.

The Israeli military says 10,000 protesters have gathered along the border fence, which has been the scene of weekly demonstrations over the past year.

The confrontation is played out throughout the day as it has been now for many months on the Gaza-Israel border.

The protests that started more than a year ago show no sign of ending and they remain a constant source of friction with Israel.

Today’s was to commemorate the Nakba, the “catastrophe” for Palestinians, in which hundreds of thousands of them fled or were forced from their homes during the violent creation of Israel in 1948.

But the human cost of the demonstrations has been huge in terms of the number of injured and killed.

Gaza’s health ministry claims more than 300 people have been killed and more than 7,000 have been wounded with live ammunition since they began.

The injuries are life-changing and at Gaza’s centre for amputees, they are overwhelmed.

17-year-old Mohammed was shot by an Israeli sniper last November – he’s now learning to walk again.

In the area next door, 18-year-old Abdullah is waiting for artificial limbs. He lost both his legs when they were shattered by a bullet.

“What happened against the protesters is barbaric,” he says. “We did not make any danger against the Israeli Defence Force, what they did is a crime against humanity.”

The IDF defends its use of snipers, claiming the demonstrations are instigated by Hamas and are a cover for terror attacks and its use of arms is restrained.

There is no doubt though that this weekly mass of people on the border is a continuing source of tension.

It’s already sparked military confrontations – the last one saw a rocket fire out of Gaza on to the towns and cities of southern Israel.

And retaliatory air strikes – from Israel’s defence forces on what it claims were military targets.

There is now a ceasefire in place but it is far from stable. And with the protests set to continue, the UN is warning the next round of fighting may not be far away.

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