Four Palestinians were killed and 51 injured by Israeli forces during the weekly Friday protests in the eastern Gaza Strip, medics and security sources said.
Gaza Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra told reporters that two demonstrators, Raid Abu Tair, 19, and Ramzi Abdo, 31 were shot dead in the eastern Gaza Strip, near the Israeli fence.
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Friday’s protests broke out in the afternoon as part of weekly rallies and protests that have been going on since March 30 last year.
Qidra added that another two Palestinians, belonging to Hamas’ armed wing the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, were killed in an Israeli air raid on the central Gaza Strip, east of al-Mughazi refugee camp.
They were identified as Abdullah Ibrahim Abu Malooh, 33 and Alaa Ali al-Bubali, 29.
Hamas confirmed the deaths of its members and pledged to respond to what it called an “Israeli aggression”.
A total of 51 people were also injured in both incidents, the ministry said.
According to the Israeli army, two of its soldiers were injured at the Israeli fence east of Gaza.
The Israeli military said it had hit a base belonging to Hamas after shots were fired at its forces along the border.
An army spokesperson said about 5,200 Palestinians had taken part in the demonstrations throughout the day.
As part of the Great March of Return, protesters in the Gaza Strip demand the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in historical Palestine, from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.
They also demand an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.
The Gaza health ministry said that since the outbreak of the weekly protests last year, the Israeli army has killed 275 demonstrators and wounded 17,000 others, who were officially referred to hospitals.
Israel has waged three offensives on Gaza since December 2008.
The last war in 2014 severely damaged Gaza’s already weak infrastructure, prompting the United Nations to warn that the strip would be “uninhabitable” by 2020.