GAZA (Reuters) - A Palestinian taking part in a border protests was killed on Friday, Gazan medical officials said, bringing to 136 the number killed in the confrontations that have often drawn a lethal Israeli army response since they began on March 30.
The Gaza Health Ministry said the 22-year-old died of a chest wound. It said Israeli shelling wounded eight people in the same location, east of Gaza City, though it was not clear if the two incidents were linked.
Israel’s military denied shelling, saying troops used “riot dispersal means” including gunfire as they confronted 3,000 Palestinians at five points along the border fence, some rolling burning tires and throwing rocks, and that “a number of terrorists” approached the border fence with a bomb.
“The explosive device went off within the Gaza Strip and injured several Palestinians,” it said.
The Gaza Health ministry said almost 400 people were wounded in Friday’s protests, 57 of them from live bullets.
There have been no serious Israeli casualties during the so-called “Great March of Return” but big tracts of Israeli land have been ravaged by fires set by incendiary kites or helium balloons flown in from Gaza.
Israel, facing international condemnation over its tactics, accuses Gaza’s Islamist Hamas rulers of orchestrating the sometimes violent protests to distract from their governance problems and provide cover for armed cross-border attacks.
Home to 2 million Palestinians, more than half of them war refugees and their descendents, Gaza has suffered deep poverty and infrastructure collapses under a 12-year blockade by Israel and Egypt, which say they aim to curb Hamas threats.
Organizers have described the border protests as spontaneous outpourings of frustration, as has Hamas. The Islamists have failed to conclude months of power-sharing talks with Western-backed Palestinian political rivals to ease conditions in Gaza.
The Palestinian Centre of Policy and Survey Research, said on Wednesday that 74 percent of Palestinians believe the protests have not achieved their goals or achieved little.
Its poll found 61 percent of Gazans believe Hamas is responsible for the “initiation and organization” of the border protests.
Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Robin Pomeroy