Protesters shout slogans and hold placards during a demonstration on Whitehall opposite Downing Street in central London yesterday in support of the Palestianians in the Gaza Strip calling for a stop to the killing organised by the Palestinian Forum in Britain. Relatives (inset) of a victim who died the day before yesterday from wounds, mourn during his funeral yesterday in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. AFP PHOTO
GAZA CITY: Palestinian mourners in the Gaza Strip yesterday were burying their dead, including a journalist, after Israeli troops killed nine during the latest border clashes in a week of bloodshed, reports AFP.
Thousands of protesters approached the border fence around Gaza for a second Friday in a row, burning tyres and hurling stones at Israeli forces, who responded with tear gas and live ammunition.
In addition to the nine dead, at least 491 were wounded by Israeli gunfire, the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza enclave said.
Israel said there were around 20,000 protesters and that they were seeking to breach the border. Numbers were down from the previous Friday, when tens of thousands approached the border in demonstrations that saw Israeli forces kill 19 Palestinians, making it the bloodiest day in Gaza since a 2014 war.
No Israelis were injured on either day and the latest deaths have sparked fresh calls for an investigation.
Among those killed on Friday was Yasser Murtaja, 30, a photographer with the Gaza-based Ain Media agency, who died from his wounds after being shot, the health ministry said. Murtaja’s company confirmed his death, with witnesses saying he was close to the front of the protests in southern Gaza when he was hit. An AFP picture taken after he was wounded showed Murtaja wearing a press vest as he received treatment. His brother Motazem, also a journalist, said he was next to him when he was shot. “The target was very clearly journalists,” he said.
Israel’s army declined to comment, saying it was reviewing the incident.
Murtaja’s body was taken from the hospital to his home in Gaza City Saturday morning, with dozens of journalists following, many fighting back tears.
It was wrapped in a Palestinian flag, with a press flak jacket placed on his stomach.
Ismail Haniya, the head of Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas, attended the funeral, AFP journalists said.
Haniya said journalists were attacked by Israel while trying to show a “true picture of a blockaded, downtrodden people”.
In the West Bank political capital of Ramallah, around 50 Palestinian journalists held a vigil for Murtaja.
Press watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a tweet it was “saddened to learn” that Murtaja had died after being “shot while covering Gaza demonstrations”.
The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate said five other reporters were also shot and wounded by the Israeli army during Friday’s protests, although they wore clothes clearly identifying them as journalists.
The Gaza health ministry on Saturday said a 20-year-old man, Hamza Abdel Aal, was also shot and killed by Israeli forces in central Gaza.
Some of the nine men were buried late Friday, while the rest were to be buried on Saturday.
Weeks of border protests have been called to demand the return of Palestinians to land they were forced from or fled after the founding of Israel 70 years ago. They come with tensions high as the US gears up to shift its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem after recognising the disputed city as the capital of the Jewish state.