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Protester critically injured by live Israeli fire at Gaza rally

April 24, 2010 1:11 P.M. (Updated: April 25, 2010 8:56 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma'an – Six people were injured, one seriously, by live fire from Israeli forces as Gaza residents and international solidarity activists gathered in the central Strip on Saturday to protest the enforcement of the no go zone.

Eyewitnesses confirmed early security source reports, saying first three, then six were injured, one seriously as protesters marched with Palestinian flags towards the buffer zone area enforced by Israel around the Gaza border.

"The non-violent rally approached the border area to protest the creation of a buffer zone along the borders between Israel and the Gaza Strip," rally coordinator Mahmoud Az-Ziq said.

Coordinator of medical services in the Gaza Strip Adham Abu Silmiyya said three of the six injured were evacuated to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in central Gaza, with one man in serious condition.

Coordinator of Beit Hanoun popular committee Saber Az-Za'aneen identified the injured foreign activist as 28-year-old Bianca Zimmit from Malta. He said she was hit by live fire in the foot, and confirmed that she was one of the three evacuated to hospital.

A statement from the International Solidarity Movement said Zimmit was shot while filming the demonstration, at a distance of approximately 80-100 meters.

The statement identified the other two hospitalized victims as Nidal Al Naji, 18, who the group said was shot in the right thigh, and Hind Al-Akra, 22, who was shot in the stomach and has undergone emergency surgery.

An Israeli military spokesman confirmed shots were fired in the area, but said they were "warning shots meant to drive away" the group of protesters. He noted they were "very close" the the border fence, and area he described as a "combat zone."

The no-go area means 20 percent of the arable lands in Gaza are inaccessible to local farmers, who are fired on by Israeli forces patrolling the area if they approach the buffer.

The zone extends 150-300 meters into the Strip from the Green Line, or the 1967 border, from which Israel claimed to have pulled out in 2005.

The military spokesman said troops could "not allow anyone to be present" in the no-go zone, because it was an area "used by terrorists," and cited several cases of Palestinian militant groups planting explosive devices in the zone.

Militant groups say attacks on Israeli patrols in Gaza are defensive, and an effort to protect what by law is sovereign Palestinian territory, but in reality is under Israeli military occupation.
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