IDF maintains relative calm on anniversary of Hamas-led Gaza riots

Screenshot from AIPAC livestream

A United Nations official has urged Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers to avoid a violent escalation on the eve of the first anniversary of the start of the weekly "Great March of Return" protests.

Egypt has repeatedly tried to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, stepping up efforts in recent days after a Gaza rocket struck a house in central Israel earlier this week, injuring seven Israelis and threatening renewed escalation.

Gaza's Ministry of Health has said that Israeli snipers have shot over 6,500 protesters, killing more than 250 - including children, journalists and medical workers.

Saleh Higazi, the deputy director of Amnesty for the Middle East and North Africa, said that the dimension and nature of wounds inflicted to Gaza demonstrators by Israeli forces "induce us to think that Israel adopted a deliberate strategy to mutilate civilians".

He stressed, according to Al Ray, that the March of Return and Breaking Siege, with all available resources, will continue, explaining that "it emphasizes the unity of our people and the vitality of its cause, and will never stop until the achievement of its objectives in full".

Israel has fought two wars and numerous smaller conflagrations with Hamas during the tenure of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is seeking his fourth consecutive term in April 9 elections, but is facing a serious challenge from a group of ex-army chiefs who have criticized his Gaza policy.

They also demand an end to Israel's 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave's economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.

This crisis has been driven by over 11 years of an Israeli blockade and an unresolved internal Palestinian divide.

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The health ministry said 64 protesters have been injured by live fire.

Hurling pipe bombs and setting off firecrackers, "Night Disturbance Units" have become a new phenomenon on the Israel-Gaza Strip frontier in the run-up to the first anniversary of the start of deadly border protests.

Israel's lethal response has been criticised by human rights groups, who say it is targeting protesters who pose little threat to heavily armed soldiers. Protest organizers installed tents near the border equipped with electricity and internet connection for demonstrators.

Analysts highlight desperate living conditions and lack of freedom of movement as driving forces behind the protests.

"We burn tires, hurl stones, make noises using firecrackers".

At least 62 Palestinians were killed that day by Israeli gunfire and hundreds wounded.

A large number of the casualties have been unarmed Palestinians and medics with clearly marked clothing, which has "raised concerns" about Israel's alleged use of excessive force.

Hamas officials say an understanding was reached that would see Israel ease its crippling blockade of Gaza in exchange for the protests remaining calm.

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