Gaza Border (Reuters) – Israeli troops shot down seven Palestinian demonstrators on Friday and injured at least 200 on the Israeli-Gaza border, medical officials in Gaza said, increasing the death toll in the weeklong riots to 27. " 19659002] They said the protesters, including two teenagers aged 16 and 17, had been killed during a round of daily demonstrations at protest sites along the border, referred to as the "Great March of Return".
The Day of Violence, which has been experiencing major Palestinian crowds in recent days, but not as large as at the start of last Friday's demonstration, calmed down as night fell.
Gaza Strip residents, including Palestinian refugees and their descendants, who want to retake their old homes in present-day Israel, have erected a few hundred yards (yards) of tent camps within the 65-kilometer-long fence of the Gaza Strip.
Large groups of youngsters have ventured closer to the no-go zone along the barrier, risking Israeli soldiers throwing flaming tires and stones around them.
"Israel has taken everything from us, the homeland, freedom, our future," said Samer, a 27-year-old protester who would not name his full name because he was afraid of Israeli reprisals. "I have two children, a boy and a girl, and when I die, God will look after them."
The number of demonstrators on Friday was larger than in recent days, but lower than the beginning of the riots on March 30, when 1
Refugees comprise most of the 2 million Israeli-blocked population in Gaza, an enclave ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement that calls for the destruction of Israel and is referred to by Western states as a terrorist organization.
Many of those killed were militants, Israel said, which stationed snipers on the border to prevent Palestinians "attempting any break in security infrastructure and the fence protecting Israeli civilians."
WAR OF THE WORDS
David Keyes, an Israeli government spokesman, accused Hamas of initiating violent protests along the border.
"This is a travesty for the Palestinian people, that the Hamas government is encouraging their people to attack Israel, it is encouraging its people to commit acts of violence," he said.
Hamas leader Yehya Al-Sinwar spoke in a protest camp to praise those who faced the "enemy who besieged us". He said the demonstrations would go on and tell people, "We will cut the borders, we will tear their hearts out, and we will pray in Jerusalem."
Earlier, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem urged the demonstrators to hold the rallies peacefully. "Maintaining the peaceful nature of the protests will hit all fragile Zionist propaganda," Qassem said in a statement.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has little influence in Gaza, condemned what he called Israel's "acts of killing and suppressing … the peaceful insurrection."
Israel's response to the protests has provoked international criticism, with human rights groups having said they are involved in live fires against demonstrators who pose no immediate threat to life.
The demonstrators have revived the longstanding call for the return of Palestinian refugees to the towns and villages from which their families fled or were expelled when the State of Israel was founded.
The Israeli government has ruled out any right to return because it feared that the country would lose its Jewish majority.
Palestinian youths burned Israeli flags and planted Palestinian banners on piles of mounds next to tent camps, while others arrived on large trucks carrying mountains of more tires to burn. Others launched stones with slingshots.
While Israeli tear gas exploded, Palestinian youth used T-shirts, cheap medical masks, and perfume to protect themselves. Israel tried to extinguish the burning rubber with jets of water directed over defensive mounds on its side of the border.
An international human rights spokeswoman called on Israel to exercise restraint against the Palestinian demonstrators. "We say that Israel has a duty to ensure that excessive force is not used, and if there is an unjustified and unlawful use of firearms that leads to death, it may lead to premeditated killing," said Elizabeth Throssell Geneva.
Israel says it is doing what it takes to defend its border and that its troops have responded with rioting and fire "in accordance with the rules of engagement".
The Palestinian dead have given little cause for concern in Israel, which has been the target of thousands of rocket attacks from Gaza in recent years.
Palestinian militant groups have also dug tunnels under the border fence to smuggle weapons and launch attacks.
Additional coverage by Eli Berlzon and Amir Cohen on the border with Gaza, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Letter from Stephen Farrell and Ori Lewis; Editing by Mark Heinrich