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15 killed, 750 wounded during protest in Gaza

Staff Writer |
Palestinians in Gaza have marched in their thousands to the Israeli border at the start of a six-week protest.

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The Palestinian health ministry says at least 15 people have been killed and 750 wounded, many of them by Israeli gunfire.

The Israeli military reported "rioting" at six places and said it was "firing towards main instigators".

Palestinians have pitched five camps near the border for the protest, dubbed the "Great March of Return".

They are demanding that refugees be allowed to return to homes that are now in Israel, Radio NZ reported.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said there were about 17,000 Palestinians in five locations along the border fence. It said it had "enforced a closed military zone" in the area surrounding Gaza.

The IDF said troops were "firing towards the main instigators" to break up rioting that included petrol bombs and stones being thrown at the fence.

A spokesman said all those who were killed had been trying to breach or damage the border fence, the Jerusalem Post reported.

"Live ammunition was used only against those attempting to harm the fence," Brig Gen Ronen Manelis said.

Israel has deployed tanks and snipers. Witnesses said a drone had been used in at least one location to drop tear gas.

Hamas, the militant group that has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, does not recognise Israel's right to exist, but last year said it was ready to accept an interim Palestinian state limited to Gaza and the West Bank.

Addressing protesters on Friday, Hamas senior political leader Ismail Haniyeh said "we will not concede a single inch of the land of Palestine".

He said: "There is no alternative to Palestine and no solution except to return."

The Jerusalem Post also reported a rare public appearance by the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yehiya Sinwar.


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