- Associated Press
Friday, April 6, 2018

KHUZAA, Gaza Strip (AP) - The Latest on the Gaza Palestinians protest march and the violence along the Gaza-Israel border (all times local):

6:06 a.m.

Gaza health officials say a well-known Palestinian journalist has died from a gunshot wound sustained while covering demonstrations near the Israeli border.

They say Yasser Murtaga was among two people to die overnight after being shot during Friday’s demonstrations. Their deaths raised Friday’s death toll to nine.

Murtaga was shot in the southern town of Khuzaa, which was engulfed in thick black smoke caused by burning tires set alight by demonstrators. He was over 100 meters (yards) from the border, wearing a flak jacket marked “press” and holding his camera when he was shot.

Murtaga worked for Ain media, a local TV production company.

The Israeli military has said it fired only at “instigators” involved in violence. It had no immediate comment.

2:30 a.m.

The United States for a second week in a row has blocked a U.N. Security Council statement supporting the right of Palestinians to demonstrate peacefully and endorsing Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for an independent investigation into deadly protests in Gaza.

Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York Friday evening that 14 of the 15 council nations agreed to the statement, but the United States, Israel’s closest ally, objected.

Mansour called the U.S. rejection “very irresponsible,” saying it gives Israel “the green light to continue with their onslaught against the civilian population” in Gaza.

He said the United Nations will keep all its options open including seeking a Security Council presidential statement or resolution, going to the U.N. General Assembly or the Geneva-based Human Rights Council where there are no vetoes, and urging secretary-general Guterres to establish an independent investigation.

“We will not give up,” Mansour said. “We will continue knocking on doors.”

The Arab League’s U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz said Arab ministers will discuss options to pursue the Palestinian issue at a meeting in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh on April 12 ahead of a summit of Arab leaders in the country on April 15.

Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon called on the Security Council to condemn Gaza’s Hamas rulers for exploiting children as human shields and to end their provocations.


11:50 p.m.

The Palestinian U.N. ambassador says at least nine Palestinian civilians have been killed and over 1,000 injured by Israeli fire during Friday’s Gaza protests and is again urging the U.N. Security Council to demand an independent investigation.

Riyad Mansour told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York late Friday that one child is among the dead and a large number of children were injured, at least 48 according to one report. He said his information comes from Health Ministry and Red Crescent officials in Gaza.

Mansour condemned “these massacres in the strongest possible terms” and demanded a halt and an independent investigation. The Arab League’s U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz echoed his condemnation and demands.

Kuwait’s U.N. Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi, the Arab representative on the Security Council, said a press statement has been circulated to members, almost identical to one blocked last week by the United States, that among other things calls for an independent and transparent investigation. The deadline for objections is 6 p.m. EDT.

In remarks clearly aimed at White House envoy Jason Greenblatt, Mansour denounced a statement that condemned Palestinians for calling for violence and sending protesters to the Gaza-Israeli border but never mentioned Israel’s “behavior” or urged restraint against firing on civilians.

“Shame on those who issue such statements, and they are totally on the side of the Israelis and condoning their behavior,” Mansour said.


10:35 p.m.

An Arab-Israeli member of parliament is calling for the Israeli government to be investigated and held accountable “for its crimes against the Palestinians.”

Haneen Zoabi, the first Arab woman elected to the Knesset on an Arab party’s list, says the Palestinian march in Gaza “is a peaceful act of struggle,” stressing that “popular resistance is the only way that the Palestinians can free themselves” from Israeli occupation.

She said the statement Friday by the Hamas leader in Gaza, Yehiyeh Sinwar, announcing that Palestinians are going to Jerusalem to pray at Al-Aqsa mosque “reinforces the peaceful vision of the march.”

“Yes, we need millions of Palestinians to go to march to Jerusalem,” she told a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York on Friday. “Yes, it is the ambition. But we cannot do this because the Israelis will kill them.”

“I am a Palestinian,” Zoabi said, “I am expected to be loyal to Zionism while the only meaning of Zionism is to deny my rights and to deny my identity.”

Zoabi warned that “now Israel is transforming from a racist situation to a fascist situation,” adding that a political change in the country won’t change this transformation.


9:10 p.m.

The U.N. says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is following the protests in Gaza “with concern” and is urging all parties to exercise maximum restraint and avoid confrontation.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York on Friday that U.N. Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov has been in contact with people on ground to reinforce the message “about the need to allow people to demonstrate peacefully.”

Dujarric said Mladenov has also stressed his own message and the secretary-general’s on “the need to ensure that excessive force is not used, and the need to ensure that children are not deliberately put in harm’s way.”

In a message late Thursday, Guterres urged Israel especially “to exercise extreme caution with the use of force in order to avoid casualties.”

He also stressed “the urgency to accelerate efforts to return to meaningful negotiations” on a two-state solution.


3:40 p.m.

A Gaza health official says a Palestinian man has been killed by Israeli fire and 40 people have been injured in protests on the Gaza-Israel border.

Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra says the man was killed on Friday near the Gaza town of Khan Younis. The man was said to have been killed by a shot to the head.

Al-Kidra says 40 people were injured, five of them seriously, but did not provide a breakdown of the types of injuries.

The casualties were the first as new violent incidents erupted on Friday along the Gaza-Israel border fence. Palestinian protesters burned tires, sending black smoke billowing into the air and prompting Israeli troops to fire tear gas, and live fire.


2:35 p.m.

The U.N. human rights office says it has indications that Israeli forces used “excessive force” during a deadly crackdown on protesters last week in Gaza, and is expressing concerns about possible further violence.

Spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell noted on Friday that Israeli forces are required under international human rights law to use nonviolent means “to the extent possible.”

She says live fire by Israel forces killed 16 people and reportedly wounded more than 1,000 others, many who were unarmed. She also said there were “ominous statements” from Israeli authorities leading up to protest.

Throssell told reporters in Geneva that while some protesters “reportedly used means that could be dangerous,” the protective gear and defensive positions by Israeli security forces “would have mitigated the risk and should not have led to recourse to lethal force.”

She spoke shortly before new violent incidents were reported at the Gaza-Israel border, prompting Israeli troops to fire back sporadically.


1:50 p.m.

Palestinian protesters are burning tires, sending thick black smoke billowing at Gaza-Israel border and prompting Israeli troops to fire back sporadically.

Palestinians set the tires on fire as some protesters moved closer to the border fence on Friday. The smoke is meant to block the view of Israeli snipers on the other side of the border fence.

Several shots were heard from Israeli positions as a few dozen Palestinians approached the fence near the Gaza community of Khuzaa.

The Israeli military renewed a warning that it will not allow a breach of the fence. It says soldiers are responding with live fire, tear gas and rubber bullets.

Earlier, a Muslim preacher delivering a sermon in one of five tent camps erected near the Gaza border urged protesters not to approach the fence.


11:40 a.m.

Palestinians are streaming to tent camps along Gaza’s border with Israel, ahead of what Gaza’s Hamas rulers hope will be the second mass protest in a planned, weeks-long series.

Hundreds arrived before Muslim noon prayers on Friday at one of the tent camps near the border community of Khuzaa.

Israeli forces fired tear gas that landed inside the encampment, causing people to run and push each other away to the other side of the camp. The canisters landed where TV live vans were positioned.

Activists plan to burn large numbers of tires on Friday, in hopes that thick black smoke will block the view of Israeli snipers deployed on the other side of the border fence.

From the camp, an Israeli sniper position reinforced by concrete slabs was visible. In another border area, smoke from burning tires rose in the air and several shots were heard.

A sand berm has been erected in recent days between the fence and the camp for extra protection. A dozen ambulances are parked nearby.


11:25 a.m.

The United States is urging Palestinians in Gaza to stay away from the border fence with Israel ahead of a mass demonstration there.

White House envoy Jason Greenblatt issued a statement on Friday, calling on protesters to march peacefully. He warned against approaching the border area, where more than a dozen Palestinians were killed and many more wounded last week.

Greenblatt said the U.S. condemns “leaders and protesters who call for violence or who send protesters - including children - to the fence, knowing that they may be injured or killed.”

Gaza’s Islamic militant rulers have called for a mass rally at the border as part of a weeks-long campaign of protests against a decade-old blockade of the territory.

Israel is closely guarding the fence and has warned it will not tolerate attempts to breach it.


10:20 a.m.

Israeli snipers and tanks have taken up positions ahead of an expected mass protest by Palestinians along the Gaza-Israel border fence.

In one location, protesters burned several tires near the border on Friday, sending clouds of black smoke into the air. Palestinian activists plan to burn many tires in hopes the smoke will block the view of snipers.

The planned march is the second in what Gaza’s Hamas rulers have said would be weeks of protests against a decade-old border blockade of the territory. Israel alleges Hamas is trying to carry out border attacks under the cover of protests and says it will prevent a breach of the fence at all costs.

The Gaza death toll since last week rose to 22, after a 30-year-old man died on Friday of injuries from last week’s demonstrations.


8 a.m.

Israel and Hamas are gearing up for another showdown on the Gaza-Israel border, amid concerns about more bloodshed after more than a dozen Palestinians were killed in a mass protest last week.

Israel says it will prevent a border breach at all costs, warning that protesters approaching the border fence will endanger their lives. Rights groups have denounced such seemingly broad open-fire rules as unlawful.

Friday’s march is the second in what Gaza’s Hamas rulers say will be weeks of protests against a decade-old border blockade. Activists say they will burn tires to block the view of Israeli snipers with black smoke.

Turnout has been driven by desperation among Gaza residents and Hamas’ tight organization. The group has promised to pay compensation to the families of those killed and wounded.

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