At least 12 Palestinians were killed and more than a thousand injured in Gaza on Friday during demonstrations against Israeli land confiscations, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Around 1,100 people were wounded, according to the Health Ministry, as protesters marched toward a fence that separates Gaza from Israel on the first day of demonstrations scheduled to take place over six weeks. The dead included one 16-year-old, the ministry said.
In northern Gaza, CNN witnessed at least two dozen people being taken away by ambulances in the span of half an hour. Injuries varied from rubber bullets, tear gas and live rounds fired by the Israeli military. The majority were young men — one woman was among the injured.
A Palestinian Red Crescent spokesman in Gaza told CNN that 355 injuries were from live bullets and included serious wounds to the head, abdomen and back. The Red Crescent had set up a field hospital in eastern Gaza and was setting up a second hospital in nearby east Jabalia.
Tens of thousands of Palestinian protesters marched in Gaza along the fence, with smaller groups taking to the streets in the West Bank and Israel Friday in what is being called the March of Return.
The protest coincides with Palestinian Land Day, which commemorates the confiscation of Palestinian-owned land in Israel in 1976. Six Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed protesting the seizures at the time.
Prior to Friday’s protest, organizers said the march would be nonviolent, but warned of possible military fire from Israeli forces.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement that thousands of Palestinians were “rioting throughout the Gaza Strip, rolling burning tires and hurling stones at the security fence and at IDF troops, who are responding with riot dispersal means and firing towards main instigators.”
The IDF is “prepared to respond to the violent riots planned throughout the Gaza Strip if needed,” the statement added.
An Israeli official told CNN that two of those killed on Friday were members of Hamas, the political and militant group that controls Gaza.
In a tweet earlier Friday, Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned Gaza residents that Hamas is “risking your lives.” He added that anyone who approached the border was “endangering his life.”
A Palestinian farmer in Gaza named Omar Wahid Samur was killed and another injured by the Israeli military early Friday morning ahead of the protests, the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza reported.
Commenting on the incident, the IDF said that an Israeli tank had fired on two suspects who had approached the security fence on the southern Gaza Strip and were “operating suspiciously.” The IDF said it was aware of reports of casualties.
Tent cities have been set up to host the marches, which are expected to continue through May 15 when Palestinians mark the anniversary of the “Nakba” (“Catastrophe”), the day after Israel declared independence in 1948. Roughly 700,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes during the Arab-Israeli war.
Today, approximately 1.3 million Palestinians living in Gaza are registered refugees, according to the United Nations.
The US will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem around May 14, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence. US President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to relocate the embassy and recognize the contested city as Israel’s capital was slammed by most of the international community and has galvanized Palestinian protests against Israel.
The Trump administration said the decision was a “recognition of simple reality” and claimed it was not meant to prejudge final-status negotiations about the city’s final borders, although Trump later said he had taken Jerusalem “off the table” when it came to any future peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Fatah chief and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the embassy move disqualified the US as a peace-broker in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has boycotted American officials while seeking to improve ties with Hamas officials in Gaza.