Fatalities Reported as Thousands of Gaza Palestinians Rally at Israeli Border in ‘March of Return’

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JERUSALEM, Israel —The United Nations is calling for an investigation following clashes Friday between Israeli troops and as many as 30,000 Palestinians during the beginning of a so-called “March of Return” to take back the land of Israel.  

The march was organized by Hamas the terror group that has had control of the Gaza Strip since 2007.  

Health officials in Gaza claim 16 are dead and more than a thousand were wounded, mostly from tear gas dispersal and rubber coated steel bullets, at the beginning of a six-week long organized protest that Hamas said would be peaceful.

The protests also began in conjunction with the start of the Jewish Passover and the Christian commemoration of Good Friday.

The United Nations Security Council met in closed session in New York Friday after the riots. A statement issued Friday by Israeli United Nations Ambassador Danny Danon read in part, “As we warned, the so-called peace march today turned out to be a well organized and violent terror gathering funded by Hamas.  The sole purpose of these provocations is to threaten Israel and so unrest.”  He added that “the international community must not be deceived by Hamas’ attempts to conceal their crimes.”

The Israeli military had been warning for days that it would not tolerate the encroachment by Gazans across the Israeli border.  Soldiers were authorized to use live ammunition in the event of border incursions.

In a Jerusalem Post report, Maj.-General Eyal Zamir, head of the IDF Southern Command, said, “We are identifying attempts to carry out terror attacks under the camouflage of riots.”

The IDF also claimed Hamas sent a 7-year-old girl across the border, as armed Israeli snipers were on the alert.  

“IDF soldiers immediately recognized that it was a girl and ensured she returned safely to her parents. The Hamas terror organization uses women and children in a cynical manner, sending them to the fence,” an Israeli military statement read.

Military spokesmen estimated they saw “about 17,000 Palestinians in five locations along the fence, burning tires and throwing Molotov cocktails and stones at the fence and at IDF troops who are responding with riot dispersal measures and shooting at a number of key instigators.”  

US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert tweeted the United States is “deeply saddened by the loss of life in #Gaza today.  We urged those involved to take steps to lower tensions.”

Meanwhile, the rest of Israel was generally quiet as Jewish Israelis took part in the Passover Seder meal.  The week-long holiday began at sundown Friday.

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