More than 200 unarmed Palestinian protesters have been wounded by Israeli troops in the besieged Gaza Strip along the border separating the impoverished enclave and the occupied territories.
According to a report by the Gaza Ministry of Health, 206 demonstrators, including at least eight minors, sustained injuries as a result of inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers in the blockaded sliver on Friday.
Reports said that Israeli forces fired large quantities of tear gas canisters and live bullets east of Gaza City to disperse some 7,000 protesters who were rallying for what had been officially designated as “Friday of the Wounded”, paying tribute to those who have been wounded since the beginning of the Great March of Return demonstrations.
At least 133 Palestinians, including 14 children, have been killed by Israeli forces since the Return rallies began in the Gaza Strip on March 30. About 14,600 Palestinians also sustained injuries, of them 300 are currently in a critical condition. Of those wounded, at least 3,900 have been injured by live bullets and another 500 by rubber-coated steel bullets, while more than 6,500 suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation.
The Gaza clashes reached their peak on May 14, the eve of the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (the Day of Catastrophe), when the Israeli regime forcibly drove more than 760,000 Palestinians – now estimated to number nearly five million with their descendants – out of their homes.
This year’s anniversary coincided with the US embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem al-Quds, a highly provocative move that infuriated Palestinians and intensified the protesting rallies.
“This is the Friday of the wounded, the Friday of loyalty, the Friday of return, the Friday of steadfastness, the Friday of confrontation and resistance,” said Mohammad, one of the many protesters who attended the rally on crutches, adding, “We will persevere until we obtain our rights to our land – the land of life, of freedom and of return.”
Since 1948, the Israeli regime has denied Palestinian refugees the right to return, despite United Nations resolutions and international law that upholds people’s right to return to their homelands.
Israel has launched several wars on the Palestinian coastal sliver, the last of which began in early July 2014. The military aggression, which ended on August 26, 2014, killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians. Over 11,100 others were also wounded in the war.
The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.
The Israeli regime denies about 1.8 million people in Gaza their basic rights, such as freedom of movement, jobs with proper wages as well as adequate healthcare and education.