Last updated: 17 January, 2014

Israel troops open fire on Gaza protesters

The Israeli army fired live rounds and tear gas at protesters near the border fence in the Gaza Strip on Friday, wounding two Palestinians, medics and an AFP correspondent said.

Troops fired at some 300 demonstrators who were protesting against Israel’s destruction of farmland for its 300-metre (yard) buffer zone, the correspondent said.

Two protesters were slightly wounded and taken to hospital, Gaza’s Hamas health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP.

An army spokesman confirmed that troops had opened fire on Palestinians who went near the border fence and refused to heed warnings to pull back, but said he was unaware of any injuries.

“A group of Palestinians came very near the border fence. Soldiers tried to disperse them by using anti-riot methods but as the Palestinians continued to advance they fired towards their legs,” the spokesman said.

The demonstrators were marching near the fence in support of farmers, whose citrus trees they said had been uprooted by troops to make way for a buffer zone along the border.

“Israel destroyed most of our citrus trees… (and) still prevents us from importing or exporting any products,” said protest organisers the Gaza Youth Coalition.

A statement deplored “daily Israeli attacks” against farmers near the border.

Israeli troops had been allowing Palestinians to farm their lands in the buffer zone, in line with a 2012 agreement between the Jewish state and the Hamas rulers of Gaza.

Israel allows “civilian access on foot to areas up to 100 meters from the perimeter fence for agricultural purposes only, and vehicular access to a distance of 300 meters,” according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Soldiers often fire at Palestinians who stray beyond the civilian access area.

Israeli air strikes wounded a woman and four children near Gaza City Wednesday night, medical sources said, with Israel confirming it had struck in retaliation for rocket fire.

Palestinian security officials said one of the strikes targeted a training camp of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamist Hamas movement, which has controlled Gaza since 2007.