The Brand New troops fire Gaza protests; 9 wounded

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Clashes erupted along the Gaza-Israel border as thousands of protesters gathered for a third consecutive Friday, AFP journalists said.


On Friday, groups of youths waved Palestinian flags and burnt hundreds of tyres and Israeli flags near the fenced-off border after Friday prayers.

Clashes erupted at several spots as small groups of Palestinian protesters threw stones at Israeli border guards who fired back with tear gas.

Thirty-four Palestinians have been killed and thousands wounded by Israeli forces since March 30, according to the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza.

On Friday, most of the demonstrators assembled in five tent camps located several hundred yards from the border fence.

The military said soldiers were responding "with riot dispersal means and are firing in accordance with the rules of engagement".

Most were injured east of Gaza City, but two were hurt in clashes near Al-Bureij in central Gaza.

The marches are organized by Gaza's Islamic militant Hamas, but turnout is also being driven by desperation among the territory's 2 million residents.

Palestinian organizers have called the series of protests the "Great March of Return" beginning on Land Day, March 30, and continuing until May 15, the 70th anniversary of the "Nakba" - or the "catastrophe" - when 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes and off their land by Israeli forces in 1948. As witnessed in the past weeks, these protests have the potential to become violent.

Israel accuses Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs Gaza and with whom it has fought three wars since 2008, of using the protests as cover to carry out violence.

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No Israelis have been killed during the demonstrations, and human rights groups say the Israeli military has used live fire against demonstrators who pose no immediate threat to life.

On Friday, hundreds flocked to one of five camps near Gaza City, stepping on a large Israeli flag laid out on the ground at the entrance.

Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade for a decade and unemployment is approaching 50 percent.

On Thursday, the IDF said it bombed Hamas military targets in the Gaza Strip, after an explosive device detonated near an Israeli army vehicle along the border on Wednesday.

Islam Herzallah, 28, died in hospital after being shot by Israeli troops east of Gaza City, the Health Ministry said.

Why has Abbas gone silent on Gaza protests? "We came here so the world can see us and know that life here is miserable, and that there should be a solution". At least nine Palestinians were reported wounded in what was the third mass rally in two weeks. It has said that soldiers fire live bullets as a last resort, in a "precise and measured manner".

Another Israeli group, Breaking The Silence, published a statement by five former snipers in the Israeli military who said they were "filled with shame and sorrow" over the recent incidents in Gaza.

Organizers were calling on Friday's demonstrators to burn Israeli flags and raise Palestinian ones.

"The aim behind the demonstration is to support the Palestinian nation and to emphasise on the right of return (of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel)".

Protests are to continue until mid-May, around the time the United States is due to move its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.