UPDATE WITH INJURIES
By Mohammed Majid
GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) - At least 70 demonstrators were injured as a result of an Israeli army assault on participants of the weekly return marches in eastern Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Ministry of Health announced on Friday.
"Seventy Palestinians were wounded with various injuries including 40 live bullets," it said, but did not clarify the nature of the remaining casualties.
Hundreds of Palestinians across the Gaza Strip headed early on Friday toward the security fence to participate in the anti-occupation protests known as the Great March of Return.
They were holding Palestinian flags and chanting slogans praising Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Higher National Commission of the Great March of Return and Breaking of the Gaza Siege (formed by Palestinian factions) named this Friday's rallies 'We are ready to protect Al-Aqsa" in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the first attempt to burn Al-Aqsa Mosque and the continued repressive procedures by the Israeli authorities in Jerusalem.
The attack was carried out by a radical pro-Israeli Australian national Dennis Michael Rohan and caused heavy damages to the mosque.
In a previous statement, the commission said that "Israel is responsible for any attacks or assaults on the protesters of the marches".
Since the Gaza rallies began in March last year, nearly 270 protesters have been martyred -- and thousands more wounded -- by Israeli forces at the security fence areas with Gaza.
Demonstrators demand an end to Israel’s 12-year-old blockade to the Gaza Strip, which has shattered the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its two million inhabitants of free movement in and out from Gaza and prevented many basic amenities.
*Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara
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UPDATE 2 - 70 Gazans injured while protesting near security fence
UPDATE WITH INJURIES