7 killed, hundreds injured by Israelis in Gaza protest


Associated Press

KHUZAA, Gaza Strip

Thousands of Palestinians protested along Gaza’s sealed border with Israel on Friday, engulfing the volatile area in black smoke from burning tires to try to block the view of Israeli snipers and cheering a Hamas strongman who pledged that the border fence will eventually fall.

Israeli troops opened fire from across the border, killing at least seven Palestinians and wounding 293 others – 25 of them seriously – in the second mass border protest in a week, Gaza health officials said. Hundreds more suffered other injuries, including tear gas inhalation, the officials said.

The deaths brought to at least 29 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire since last week.

The latest casualties were bound to draw new criticism from rights groups that have branded Israel’s open-fire orders on the border as unlawful, after Israel’s defense minister warned that those approaching the fence were risking their lives.

The U.N. human-rights office said Friday that it has indications that Israeli forces used “excessive force” against protesters last week, when 15 Palestinians were killed or later died of wounds sustained near the border.

An Israeli military spokesman defended the rules of engagement.

Israel has alleged that Hamas is using the mass marches as a cover for attacking the border fence, and has vowed to prevent a breach at all costs.

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