International desk, May 14: At least 25 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and more than 900 others wounded as the Israeli army fired live ammunition and teargas and firebombs at protesters assembled along several points near the fence with Israel.Of the 918 wounded, the ministry of health said at least 74 were below the age of 18, 23 were women and eight were journalists.
Since Monday morning, Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip have been attempting to cross the highly fortified fence separating the enclave from Israel, as part of the Great March of Return movement.
The demonstrations are part of a weeks-long protest calling for the right of return for Palestinian refugees to the areas they were forcibly expelled from in 1948.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians have arrived to participate in the rally.
The protest comes ahead of the annual commemorations of the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, when the state of Israel was established on May 15, 1948, which led to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their villages.
Demonstrations were also planned to coincide with the moving of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in line with the US’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December, furthering stoking tensions and angering Palestinians.
Rallies also kicked off in the occupied West Bank cities of Ramallah and Hebron, as a response to the US embassy move. In Ramallah, Palestinians are expected to protest from the city centre to the Qalandia military checkpoint, the main northern crossing separating Ramallah from Jerusalem.
About 70 percent of the Gaza Strip’s population of two million are descendants of refugees.
Since the protests began on March 30, Israeli forces have killed at least 74 Palestinians in the coastal enclave and wounded more than 9,400.
Here are all the latest updates as of Monday, May 14:
At least 25 killed, more than 900 wounded
The ministry of health has released a statement saying that about 918 others have been wounded so far.
Some 448 people were shot at with live ammunition, while many others were injured from tear gas inhalation and rubber-coated steel bullets.
At least 39 are in critical condition, meaning that the death toll is expected to rise.
Palestinians in Gaza prepare to cross fence with Israel
Organisers of the Great March of Return say they are expecting as many as one million people to join the demonstration and attempt to cross the fence with Israel from various points across the border.
A leaflet circulated by the organisers reads: “The national committee for the Great March of Return invites you to participate in the peaceful popular protest, One Million of Return and Breaking the Siege”.
A spokesperson for the Great March of Return, Ahmad Abu Artema, told Al Jazeera on Monday that the aim of trying to cross the fence is to “send a message the Palestinian people have not and will not adapt to 70 years of being refugees, estrangement and difficult conditions.”
“We are adamant to return, no matter what happens. This is what the people of Gaza want – it’s about popular will. And this is their right.”
The Right of Return is enshrined in United Nations Resolution 194.
Israeli officials have accused Hamas of being behind the protests, saying the movement exploits Palestinians and deliberately exposes them to danger near the border fence.
The organisers behind the Great March of Return have rejected these claims.
Early on Monday, the Israeli military, which has imposed a land, sea and air blockade on the Gaza Strip for more than a decade, dropped leaflets warning Palestinians to stay away from the border.
Teen Palestinian succumbs to wounds
Israeli forces shot Afanah on Friday during protests which took place for the seventh Friday in a row as part of the Great March of Return movement.
Afanah’s death takes the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since the protests began to at least 49.
Egypt to open Rafah border crossing
The Palestinian embassy in Cairo announced that Egypt would open the Rafah border crossing for four days and would allow movement in both directions.
The opening is meant to attend to humanitarian cases, as well as to those whose names are registered waiting to leave the Gaza Strip.
Hundreds mourn death of Jaber Salem Abu Mustafa
Hundreds of Palestinians in the southern Gaza Strip attended the funeral of 40-year-old Jaber Salem Abu Mustafa, who was shot by Israeli forces.
Mustafa was shot in the chest near the Israeli border, east of Khan Younis, on Friday, May 11.