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Israeli forces shoot dead 16 Palestinians in one day during protests in Gaza

March 31, 2018 12:22 P.M. (Updated: April 3, 2018 9:15 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- By Friday evening, 16 Palestinians had been declared dead in Gaza as a result of Israeli fire. Fifteen of the dead were killed during massive demonstrations on the border with Israel, and one, a farmer, was killed before dawn on Friday while on his land near the border fence.

The Gaza Ministry of Health confirmed the death of 16 Palestinians and the injury of 1,416 civilians, which ranged from live bullet wounds to severe tear gas inhalation.

The slain Palestinians were identified as:

Naji Abu Hijir

Mohammed Kamal Najjar

Wahid Nasrallah Abu Samour

Amin Mansour Abu Muammar

Mohammed Naeem Abu Amr

Ahmed Ibrahim Ashour Odeh

Jihad Ahmed Fraina

Mahmoud Saadi Rahmi

Abdel Fattah Abdel Nabi

Ibrahim Salah Abu Shaar

Abd al-Qader Marhi al-Hawajri

Sari Walid Abu Odeh

Hamdan Isma'il Abu Amsha

Jihad Zuhair Abu Jamous

Bader al-Sabbagh

Omar Samour, 31 -- the farmer who was killed around dawn

Videos from the march, which was organized as a peaceful protest by activists and grassroots organizations in Gaza and later supported by local Hamas officials, show civilians being shot down by Israeli snipers who were stationed tens of meters away from the protesters, on the other side of a highly militarized fence.

Leading up to the march, the Israeli army released a statement saying it had declared the border area along Gaza a “closed military zone,” meaning that any Palestinian who got close to the border fence could risk getting shot.

The Israeli army released statements on Twitter describing the protests as “violent riots.”

“17,000 Palestinians are rioting in 5 locations along the Gaza Strip security fence. The rioters are rolling burning tires and hurling firebombs & rocks at the security fence & IDF troops, who are responding w riot dispersal means and firing towards main instigators,” the statement said.

Despite the Israeli army’s claims, Palestinian activists and leaders in the Gaza Strip have maintained that the “March of Return” was organized as a massive non-violent, weeks-long protest advocating for the return of Palestinian refugees to their original homelands in historic Palestine, now present day Israel.

Leading up to Friday, the first official day of the march -- which will continue until the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe, in May -- Palestinians set up tents along the border with Gaza, where protesters plan to stay until the Nakba anniversary.

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