Israeli Drones Drop Tear Gas on Palestinian Protesters

An Israeli drone drops tear gas grenades during clashes with Palestinians, during a tent city protest along the Israel border with Gaza, demanding the right to return to their homeland, east of Gaza City March 30, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

At least 16 Palestinians were killed and hundreds injured on Friday by Israeli security forces confronting one of the largest Palestinian demonstrations along the Israel-Gaza border in recent years, Gaza medical officials said.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians, pressing for a right of return for refugees to what is now Israel, gathered along the fenced 65-km (40-mile) frontier where tents were erected for a planned six-week protest, local officials said. The Israeli military estimate was 30,000.

The United Nations Security Council was briefed on the violence in Gaza on Friday at the request of Kuwait. Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour told the council at least 17 Palestinian civilians were killed and more than 1,400 injured.

Families brought their children to the encampments just a few hundred meters (yards) from the Israeli security barrier with the Hamas Islamist-run enclave, and football fields were marked in the sand and scout bands played.

But as the day wore on, hundreds of Palestinian youths ignored calls from the organizers and the Israeli military to stay away from the frontier, where Israeli soldiers across the border kept watch from dirt mound embankments.

The military said its troops had used live fire only against people trying to sabotage the border security fence, some of them rolling burning tyres and throwing rocks, and that at least two of the dead were Hamas operatives.

Palestinian health officials said Israeli forces used mostly gunfire against the protesters, in addition to tear gas and rubber bullets. Witnesses said the military had deployed a drone over at least one location to drop tear gas.

One of the dead was aged 16 and at least 400 people were wounded by live gunfire, while others were struck by rubber bullets or treated for tear gas inhalation, Gaza health officials said.

SOURCE: Reuters, Nidal al-Mughrabi