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Scores wounded as Israeli troops fire on Gaza border protesters

Since late March, 27 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds wounded by army fire during such rallies.

Thousands of Palestinians are staging a mass protest along Gaza’s sealed border with Israel with some burning Israeli flags, throwing stones and torching tyres.

Israeli soldiers are firing tear gas and live bullets from across the border fence.

Gaza health officials say at least 112 Palestinians have been wounded in Friday’s protest, the third of this scale in two weeks.

Palestinian demonstrators at the Israel-Gaza border (Ariel Schalit/AP)

Since late March, 27 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds wounded by army fire during such rallies.

On Friday, most demonstrators assembled in five tent camps several hundred metres from the border fence.

Smaller groups moved closer to the fence, throwing stones, torching tyres and burning large Israeli flags.

The Israeli military said demonstrators also hurled an explosive device and several firebombs near the fence.

Smoke rises from burning tyres (Ariel Schalit/AP)

Footage distributed by the military showed an area of the fence made up of several layers of barbed wire coils.

Protesters stuck a Palestinian flag into the fence and affixed a rope, using it to tug at the coils. One man threw a burning tyre into the fence, while another was seen walking nearby with the help of a crutch.

Rights groups have branded the Israeli military’s open-fire regulations as unlawful, saying they permit soldiers to use potentially lethal force against unarmed protesters.

Israel has accused Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas rulers of using the protests as a cover for attacks and says snipers only target the main “instigators”.

The marches have been organised by Hamas, but large turnouts on two preceding Fridays were also driven by desperation among the territory’s two million residents.

Gaza has endured a border blockade by Israel and Egypt since Hamas overran the territory in 2007, a year after winning Palestinian parliament elections.

The blockade has driven Gaza deeper into poverty, with unemployment approaching 50% and electricity available for less than five hours a day.

The marchers are protesting against the blockade, but are also asserting what they say is a “right of return” of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to what is now Israel.

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