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Dozens injured as Palestinians march to Gaza fence on Nakba Day

Thousands protested in Gaza to commemorate forced expulsion of Palestinians when Israel was founded
Thousands of Palestinians marched to Gaza-Israel boundary fence to mark Nakba Day (MEE/Sanad Latefa)

Israeli forces injured dozens of Palestinians in Gaza, as thousands of protesters gathered near the Gaza-Israel boundary fence to commemorate Nakba Day.

At least 65 protesters were hurt on Wednesday, including 15 who sustained gunshot wounds, the Gaza ministry of health said.

The protest was organised to mark Nakba Day (Catastrophe), the anniversary of the forced expulsion of about 750,000 Palestinians before and during the creation of the State of Israel in 1947-48.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Middle East Eye on Wednesday that at least 10,000 Palestinians took part in "riots" along the fence area.

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The spokesperson said there were "a number of attempts" to breach the fence and that Israeli forces responded with "riot dispersal means".

This year's Nakba Day protests come about two weeks after an Israeli air offensive killed more than two dozen Palestinians in Gaza, and injured scores more.

Israel and Palestinian factions reached a ceasefire on 6 May.

Palestinians across the globe commemorate the Nakba on 15 May every year, organising protests and calling for a resolution to their plight such that they can be allowed to return to the homes from which they were expelled.

An estimated 15,000 Palestinians were killed during the founding of the Israeli state 71 years ago. Almost 500 Palestinian villages were also destroyed.

Speaking at one of the Gaza protest sites, Khader Habib, a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad faction, called for Palestinians to "rise [up]" and "assert their right in Palestine", Reuters news agency reported.

"Palestine is ours. The sea is ours, the sky is ours, and the land is ours, and those strangers must be removed," he said.

(MEE/Sanad Latefa)
At least 15 Palestinians in Gaza were shot with live ammunition during Nakba day protests (MEE/Sanad Latefa)

Last year, Nakba Day coincided with the United States embassy's move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a contentious decision by the Trump administration that was met with widespread anger and frustration.

As a result of the embassy move, about 40,000 Palestinians demonstrated in Gaza last year, and Israeli forces killed at least 60 people and injured more than 1,000 others.

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Human rights groups and United Nations investigators slammed the Israeli military for using excessive force in its response to the mainly non-violent Gaza protests.

Almost 300 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more have been injured in frequent protests along the boundary fence.

Those protests, dubbed the "March of Return", started in March 2018. They call for Palestinians to be allowed to return to their homes in what is now Israel.

For decades, Israel has rejected that demand, despite UN Resolution 194 outlining Palestinians' Right to Return.