Gazan journalist among 9 Palestinians killed in border protests

Palestinian protesters burn tires in the southern Gaza Strip on the border with Israel on April 6, 2018. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90


JERUSALEM (JTA) — At least nine Gazan Palestinians were killed, including a journalist and a teen, and over 1,000 wounded in a second Friday of protests on the border with Gaza.

Palestinian photojournalist Yasser Murtaja, 31, was shot and killed during the Friday protests, and five other journalists were wounded. Murtaja, who was operating a drone over the heads of Israeli troops, was wearing a vest emblazoned with the word “Press” on it.

Some 20,000 Palestinians converged on Israel’s border with Gaza on Friday and burned about 10,000 tires to serve as a smokescreen from Israeli troops as part of the so-called March of Return that began a week earlier and is scheduled to last until mid-May.

Palestinian protesters burned tires, and threw rocks and firebombs at Israeli troops on the other side of the border fence. The IDF said on Friday that protesters attempted to damage and cross the border fence into Israel, tweeting videos showing such attempts. It also tweeted a photo of a banner planted by protesters at the border which included a Palestinian flag and a flag bearing a swastika.

The IDF said it used live fire in some cases, as well as riot control measures to stop the protesters from breaching the border fence.

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The Israeli Journalists Association on Saturday in a letter to IDF Chief of Staff Lt-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot called for an investigation into whether the IDF soldiers targeted journalists and how it will respond to such a finding. The association also inquired about “whether there are IDF guidelines regarding conduct in an environment with dense media coverage and regarding journalists reporting from demonstrations or violent riots.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Saturday night indicated that Murtaja had put his life in danger.

“I don’t know who is or isn’t a photographer. Anyone who operates drones above IDF soldiers needs to understand he’s putting himself in danger,” Liberman reportedly said on Saturday.

The IDF said it is investigating the incident. “The IDF does not intentionally fire on journalists. The circumstances in which journalists were hit, allegedly by IDF fire, are unknown to us and are being examined,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement.