At least four Palestinians were killed and over 300 were injured on Saturday during massive demonstrations marking the one year anniversary of the Great March of Return in Gaza.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said in a statement that as of 10:40 pm, Israeli forces had shot and killed four Palestinians and injured 316.
Three of the four slain Palestinians were identified by the ministry as 20-year-old Mohammed Jehad Sa’ad, who was killed on Saturday morning before the protests kicked off, and 17-year-olds Adham Nedal Amara and Tamer Hashim Abu al-Khair, who were both killed during demonstrations.
Local Palestinian news agency Quds News Network identified the fourth Palestinian as another 17-year-old, Belal Mahmoud Najjar.
In a post on Facebook, Quds News posted photos of Abu al-Khair, saying:
Friends of Tamer’s assured that he had been desperately looking for a job. Unemployment is one serious issue resulted by the Israeli siege on Gaza.
The borders’ marches give Tamer and many others the chance to protest and demand a better life.
Israel deprived Tamer of a job, and killed him when he demanded one.
According to the ministry, five people were reported to be in critical condition, and another nine in serious condition, as of 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The ministry added that 64 people were injured with live ammunition, and that among the total injured, 86 were children.
An estimated 40,000 Gazans took to the eastern border with Israel on Saturday, waving Palestinian flags and carrying signs demanding their right to return and an end to the siege.
The protests, as they did when they launched last year, coincided with Land Day, when Palestinian commemorate the 1967 massacre of six Palestinians protesting Israel’s expropriation of their land.
In preparation for the demonstrations and expected violence from Israeli snipers across the borders, health workers in Gaza set up a series of large medical tents with dozens of beds, and medics and ambulances on standby.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces had deployed 200 snipers across the border, doubled their number of troops, and extended the height of its existing militarized border fence in preparations for the protest.
Leading up to Saturday’s march, reports surfaced saying that Palestinian factions in Gaza had agreed to quell the anniversary protests in return for Israel easing a number of restrictions on Gaza’s borders, imports and exports, and fishing zones.
By Saturday evening, as protests wound down, Israeli media reported that due to the “successful efforts” by Hamas to “restrain protests,” Israel would be reopening Gaza borders and the enclave’s fishing zone, which had been completely closed by the Israeli army following rocket fire from Gaza last week.
Haaretz reported that “if quiet is maintained,” Israel would continue to ease other restrictions “at a later time.”
According to Haaretz, Israeli army spokesman Ronen Manelis praised the “exceptionally restrained” protests, saying “the restraint Hamas exercised today was such that we hadn’t seen over the past year. There were hundreds of Hamas personnel who wore orange vests and prevented demonstrators from reaching the [border] fence.”
Manelis’ statement made no mention of the four Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, or of the dozens of protesters shot with live ammunition.
In the predawn hours of Sunday morning, Israeli forces conducted several airstrikes across the Gaza Strip after rockets from Gaza landed in open areas in southern Israel, injuring no one.
Despite the flare up, Israeli media reported, the government would move forward with its promises to ease border and fishing restrictions.