An Israeli air raid killed another Palestinian protester near the Gaza Strip‘s border on Thursday, Palestinian health officials said.
Earlier, a Palestinian wounded during last Friday’s Land Day protests died of an injury sustained after being shot in the head by Israeli soldiers.
The death brings the total number of Palestinians killed in the last week at 21.
The mass protests, called “the Great March of Return”, were organised by civil society groups and supported by all political factions to call for the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
It marked the beginning of a six-week sit-in, starting on Land Day, an event that commemorates six Palestinian citizens of Israel who were shot dead by Israeli forces after protesting the government’s confiscation of large swaths of Palestinian land on March 30, 1976.
The sit-in ends on May 15, or Nakba Day, which will commemorate 70 years since the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians by Zionist militias from their villages and towns.
Protesters in Gaza had gathered in five different spots along the border, originally positioned about 700 metres away from the fence.
Israeli snipers and other soldiers opened fire on the thousands of protesters, resulting in more than 1,500 Palestinians wounded.
In the days following the initial protest, dozens more were injured.
In the aftermath of the protests, leaders in several countries condemned Israel’s use of force, saying peaceful protests are a fundamental human right.
A draft statement by the United Nations Security Council that called for an investigation into the killing of 17 unarmed Palestinian protesters near the Gaza Strip’s eastern border was blocked by the US, with US representative to the UN Walter Miller saying “bad actors” were using the “protests as a cover to incite violence” and to “endanger innocent lives.”
On Thursday, Israel’s minister of Defence Avigdor Lieberman said Israel will not change its open-fire policy as protests are expected to continue near the Gaza border in the coming days and weeks.
“If there are provocations, there will be a reaction of the harshest kind like last week,” Lieberman told public radio.
“We do not intend to change the rules of engagement.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously praised the Israeli military in a statement, thanking them for “guarding the country’s borders” and allowing “Israeli citizens to celebrate the [Passover] holiday peacefully”.
“Well done to our soldiers,” he said.