Dozens of Palestinians injured by Israeli gunfire, tear gas in Gaza border protests

Palestinian paramedics carry away a protester injured during a demonstration along the border between Israel and the Gaza strip, east of Khan Yunis. (AFP)
Updated 25 May 2018

Dozens of Palestinians injured by Israeli gunfire, tear gas in Gaza border protests

GAZA BORDER: Dozens of Palestinians demonstrating at the Gaza border were injured by Israeli gunfire and tear gas on Friday, as the latest round of protests drew several thousand participants to the frontier.
Dubbed the March of Return, the protests were launched on March 30 to demand the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to family lands or homes lost to Israel during its founding in a 1948 war.
Protests along the border reached a peak on May 14 when Gaza medical sources said at least 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli gunfire. The violence has tapered off since but there are still sporadic flare-ups.
Since the border protests began, 113 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, Gaza medical officials said.
Most of the participants on Friday kept their distance and remained about 800 meters from the fence. Dozens of youths, however, advanced to around 300 meters distance and burned tires at one protest spot. East of Gaza City some youths came right up to the fence and tried to pull it apart.
Israeli troops fired tear gas and live rounds. Soldiers also fired at kites with flaming tails to try to bring them down before they landed in Israeli farmland and set crops alight.
Gaza health ministry officials said at least 109 protesters were hurt. Medics said at least 10 were wounded by live rounds. Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and the group’s Gaza leader, Yehya Al-Sinwar, joined separate protest encampments raising cheers from the assembled crowds.
“The marches of return are not over. They may be smaller but we are continuing,” said Ali, a participant who masked his face with his t-shirt at a protest east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.
Protesters dispersed as dusk fell to prepare to break their daytime fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Gaza has been controlled since 2007 by Hamas. Israel and Egypt, citing security concerns, maintain a de facto blockade on Gaza, which has reduced its economy to a state of collapse.
Israel has blamed Hamas for provoking the violence.
“They’re pushing civilians – women, children – into the line of fire with a view of getting casualties. We try to minimize casualties. They’re trying to incur casualties in order to put pressure on Israel, which is horrible,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CBS News last week.
Salah Al-Bardaweel, a Hamas official in Gaza, told a Palestinian television channel that the majority of those killed on May 14 were Hamas members.


Change needed in Lebanon after Beirut blast, says German foreign minister

Updated 20 min 6 sec ago

Change needed in Lebanon after Beirut blast, says German foreign minister

  • Maas gave a check for over 1 million euro to the Lebanese Red Cross
  • It is part of 20 million euros in humanitarian aid from Germany

BEIRUT: Germany’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that Lebanon needed a government that can fight corruption and enact reforms as he toured Beirut port, scene of the devastating explosion that has triggered protests and led the government to resign.
Last week’s blast at a warehouse storing highly-explosive material for years killed at least 171 people, injured some 6,000 and damaged swathes of the Mediterranean city, compounding a deep economic and financial crisis.
“It is impossible that things go on as before,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. “The international community is ready to invest but needs securities for these investments. It is important to have a government that fights the corruption.”
“Many in Europe have a lot of interest for this country. They want to know that there are economic reforms and good governance. Whoever takes over responsibility in Lebanon has a lot to do.”
Maas gave a check for over 1 million euro to the Lebanese Red Cross, part of 20 million euros in humanitarian aid from Germany.
International humanitarian assistance has poured in but foreign countries have made clear they will not write blank cheques to a state viewed by its own people as deeply corrupt. Donors are seeking enactment of long-demanded reforms in return for financial assistance to pull Lebanon from economic meltdown.
The resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government has plunged Lebanon into deeper uncertainty. Its talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout had already been put on hold over a row between the government, banks and politicians about the scale of vast financial losses.
Sitting amid the debris, Lebanese expressed their frustration at the state for abandoning them in their desperate efforts to rebuild homes and businesses wrecked in the blast.
“Who knows what will happen. How will we get back to business,” said Antoinne Matta, 74, whose safe and lock store was heavily damaged by the blast. Five employees were wounded.
“We in Lebanon are used to the government not doing anything.”
Unrest has erupted with Lebanese calling for the wholesale removal of a ruling class they brand as responsible for the country’s woes. The financial crisis has ravaged the currency, paralyzed banks and sent prices soaring.
Officials have said the blast could have caused losses of $15 billion, a bill Lebanon cannot pay, given the depths of the financial crisis that has seen people frozen out of their savings accounts since October amid dollar scarcity.
The central bank has instructed local banks to extend interest-free dollar loans to individuals and businesses for essential repairs, and that it would in turn provide those financial institutions with the funding.
Bandali Gharabi, whose photo studio was destroyed, said that so far local authorities had only give him a compensation sheet to fill out. He does not know if the bank will provide financial assistance because he already has a car loan.
“Everything is gone,” he said. “I just want someone to rebuild my shop.”
President Michel Aoun has promised a swift and transparent investigation into the blast at a warehouse where authorities say more than 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored for years without safety measures. He has said the probe would look into whether it was negligence, an accident or external factors.
Reuters reported that Aoun and Diab were warned in July about the warehoused ammonium nitrate, according to documents and senior security sources.
The presidency did not respond to requests for comment about the warning letter.
An emergency donor conference raised pledges of nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) for immediate humanitarian relief.
Volunteers and construction workers with bulldozers were still clearing wreckage from neighborhoods more than a week after the blast. Rows of destroyed cars were still parked in front of damaged stores and demolished buildings.
Nagy Massoud, 70, was sitting on the balcony when the blast gutted his apartment. He was saved by a wooden door that protected him from flying debris. A stove injured his wife.
His pension is frozen in a bank account he cannot access due to capital controls prompted by the economic crisis.
“Where is the government,” he said, looking around his shattered apartment.