17 Palestinians killed in confrontations with Israeli forces

Palestinians march past a tent city erected along the border with Israel east of Gaza City on Friday.
Palestinians march past a tent city erected along the border with Israel east of Gaza City on Friday.

At least 17 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,400 injured in confrontations with Israeli security forces during protests in Gaza on Friday, according to Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian representative to the United Nations.

Israeli officials estimated tens of thousands of Palestinian protesters marched in Gaza toward the border fence between Israel and Gaza during protests called the March of Return. The march quickly turned bloody as Palestinian protesters and Israeli military clashed along the fence.

In northern Gaza, CNN witnessed at least two dozen people being taken away by ambulances in the span of half an hour as protests started across Gaza. They witnessed a small number of protesters in the crowd throwing rocks. People were injured by live rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas. The majority were young men -- one woman was among the injured.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement that thousands of Palestinians were "rioting throughout the Gaza Strip, rolling burning tires and hurling stones at the security fence and at IDF troops, who are responding with riot dispersal means and firing towards main instigators."

An IDF official warned any breach of Israeli sovereignty will be treated severely, following a week of numerous attempted and successful breaches of the border fence from Gaza.

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Confrontations escalated into Saturday. Israeli fighter jets targeted three Hamas sites after an IDF position was shot at in northern Gaza, according to an IDF statement. Tank fire also targeted the three sites, following an exchange of fire.

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The largest protest seen in Gaza in years coincided with Palestinian Land Day, which commemorates the confiscation of Palestinian-owned land in Israel in 1976.

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said the large crowds at the protests reflected the determination and will of the Palestinian people for the right of return, and to "break the siege" of Gaza.

Prior to Friday's protest, organizers said the march would be nonviolent, but they warned of possible military fire from Israeli forces.

Ahead of the protests, the IDF increased the troop presence and put snipers along the border fence.

An Israeli official told CNN that among those killed Friday were "known terrorists" including two members of Hamas, the political and militant group that controls Gaza.
In a statement released Friday evening, the IDF said it blamed Hamas for "all events and incidents taking place in today's protests."