In the face of growing Gaza violence, the United Nations called on Israeli forces to prevent further deaths during ongoing border protests. "I call on Israeli forces to ensure that their use of force is in line with their obligations under international law. All actors must ensutre that children never be the target of violence and neither be put at risk of violence, nor encouraged to participate in violence," the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Jamie McGoldrick, said in a statement. He urged all sides to use their "ability to influence the situation, to take action now to prevent further deterioration and loss of life."
Seven Palestinians, including two children, were killed, and hundreds of others injured, by Israeli forces during demonstrations in the Gaza Strip on Friday, the highest fatality toll in a single day since May 14 when 42 Palestinians were killed.
In a statement, ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra updated the death toll, saying Muhammed Esref el-Avavide, 26, was also martyred by Israeli gunfire, as reported by Anadolu Agency (AA). Earlier al-Qidra said that Mohamed Inshani, 18, Iyad Khalil al-Shaer, 18, Mohamed Nayef al-Houm, 14, Mohamed Shahsa , 24, Mohamed Walid Moustafa Haniyyah, 32, and Nasir Musbih, 12, had been killed by Israeli army gunfire.
Since March 30, thousands of Palestinians have taken part in ongoing rallies along the buffer zone, to which the Israeli army has responded with deadly force. Israel has faced international criticism for its response to the mass marches. Rights groups have branded open-fire orders as unlawful, saying they effectively permit soldiers to use potentially lethal force against unarmed protesters. In the face of growing criticism over Gaza border violence, the Israeli authorities earlier said that human rights laws do not apply to ongoing Palestinian protests along the Gaza Strip.
The Great Return March began, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinian demonstrators converged on the buffer zone separating Gaza from Israel. Israel has responded to the rallies, still held every Friday, with deadly force, killing more than 150 protesters until now and injuring thousands more. Israel was criticized by a U.N. human rights body for its killing of protesters in Gaza and treatment of Palestinians, declaring it a "war crime" under the Statute of Rome. The high casualty toll triggered a diplomatic backlash against Israel and new charges of excessive use of force against unarmed protesters.
Protesters demand the "right of return" to their homes and villages 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 11-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave's economy and deprived its more than 2 million inhabitants of many basic commodities.