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Gaza protester shot dead in clashes

A Palestinian protester in Gaza has reportedly died from Israeli army gunfire as thousands took part in an annual protest against Israeli land policy.

Israeli security forces in riot gear deployed in high numbers along the frontiers of Israel and the Palestinian territories in anticipation of a repeat of last year's violence, in which at least 38 people died near Israel's borders with Lebanon and Syria. But for the most part, protests were small and organisers kept demonstrators from actually marching on the borders.

The "Land Day" rallies are an annual event marked by Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza who protest what they say are discriminatory Israeli land policies.

Gaza health official Adham Abu Salmia said Israeli forces shot and killed Mahmoud Zaqout, 21, and critically wounded another man as they were approaching the Israel-Gaza border during a demonstration of a few thousand people organised by the territory's Hamas rulers.

The Israeli military said troops fired warning shots before shooting directly at Zaqout, in accordance with the army's rules of engagement. The military said it responded to protesters with tear gas in addition to gunfire. Abu Salmia said an additional 37 protesters throughout Gaza were lightly injured, while the Israeli military put the number at about 29.

By midday, skirmishes had broken out between protesters and security forces in the Jerusalem area. Palestinians threw rocks and Israeli troops responded with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber pellets.

Dozens of Palestinians were treated for light wounds in hospitals throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem, including four with serious head wounds from rubber pellets and one hit in the head by a tear gas canister, said Mohammed Ayyad, a spokesman for the Red Crescent medical service in Ramallah.

In southern Lebanon, thousands of Lebanese and Palestinians gathered outside the Crusader-built Beaufort castle nine miles from Israel. Lebanese security forces kept them from moving any closer to the border.

In Jordan, thousands of demonstrators gathered a few kilometres east of Jordan's border with the West Bank, chanting: "Death to Israel." Israel controls the West Bank side of the border. About 2,000 Arab-Israelis demonstrated in northern Israel, where a large portion of Israel's Arab minority lives.

Palestinians were banned from entering from the West Bank except for medical emergencies, and police barred Palestinian men under 40 from praying at a volatile Jerusalem holy site, citing security concerns.


From Belfast Telegraph