The Palestinian Authority has declared Saturday a day of national mourning after 17 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces as thousands marched near Gaza’s border with Israel in a major demonstration marking the 42nd anniversary of Land Day.
“Schools, universities as well as all government institutions across the country will be off on Saturday, as per President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to declare a day of national mourning for the souls of the martyrs,” a statement issued on Friday said.
More than 1,400 others were wounded after Israeli forces fired live ammunition at protesters and used tear gas to push them back from a heavily fortified fence, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Friday’s demonstration commemorated Land Day, which took place on March 30, 1976, when six unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli forces during protests against the Israeli government’s decision to expropriate massive tracts of Palestinian-owned land.
Organisers of Friday’s march, dubbed the Great Return March, said the main message of the demonstration was to call for the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Some 70 percent of Gaza’s two million population are descendants of Palestinians who were driven from their homes in the territories taken over by Israel during the 1948 war, known to Arabs as the Nakba.
Protesters in Gaza gathered in five different spots along the border, originally positioned about 700 metres away from the fence.
According to the ministry, the majority were injured in live fire, rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas inhalation.
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SOURCE: Al Jazeera