18 dead in Gaza as death toll continues to rise
Cii Radio|Ayesha Ismail|14 May 2018|27 Shabaan 1439
At least 18 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and more than 900 others wounded as the Israeli army fired live ammunition and tear gas at protesters assembled along several points near the fence with Israel.
Since Monday morning, Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip have been attempting to cross the highly fortified fence separating the enclave from Israel, as part of the Great March of Return movement.
The demonstrations are part of a weeks-long protest calling for the right of return for Palestinian refugees to the areas they were forcibly expelled from in 1948.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians have arrived to participate in the rally.
“The number of people showing up to participate is unprecedented in comparison to the past seven weeks of protest,” local journalist Maram Humaid told Al Jazeera.
The protest comes ahead of the annual commemorations of the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, when the state of Israel was established on May 15, 1948, which led to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their villages.
Demonstrations were also planned to coincide with the moving of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in line with the US’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December, furthering stoking tensions and angering Palestinians.
Rallies also kicked off in the occupied West Bank cities of Ramallah and Hebron, as a response to the US embassy move. In Ramallah, Palestinians are expected to protest from the city centre to the Qalandia military checkpoint, the main northern crossing separating Ramallah from Jerusalem.
About 70 percent of the Gaza Strip’s population of two million are descendants of refugees.
Since the protests began on March 30, Israeli forces have killed at least 65 Palestinians in the coastal enclave and wounded more than 8,500.