GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Thousands of Palestinians marched to Gazaâ€™s border with Israel on Friday in the largest such demonstration in recent memory, and 15 were killed by Israeli fire on the first day of what Hamas organizers said will be six weeks of daily protests against a stifling border blockade.
It was the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 cross-border war between Israel and Hamas.
Fourteen of the marchers were killed and more than 750 wounded by Israeli fire in clashes along the border fence, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
The Israeli military said thousands of Palestinians threw stones and rolled burning tires toward troops deployed on the other side of the border fence. It accused militants of trying to carry out attacks under the cover of mass protests, saying that in one incident, Palestinian gunmen fired toward soldiers.
The large turnout of the flag-waving marchers in the dangerous border zone was a testament to Hamasâ€™ organizing skills, but it also signaled desperation among Gaza residents after a decade-old border closure. Life in the coastal strip has deteriorated further in recent months, with rising unemployment, grinding poverty and daily blackouts that last for hours.
Asmaa al-Katari said she participated in the march despite the risks and would join upcoming protests because â€ślife is difficult here in Gaza and we have nothing to lose.â€ť
The history student said she is a descendant of refugees from what is now Israelâ€™s southern Negev Desert. She said her grandfathers had lived in tents as refugees.
â€śI want to tell the world that the cause of our grandfathers is not dead,â€ť she added.
Gaza resident Ghanem Abdelal, 50, said he hopes the protest â€świll bring a breakthrough, an improvement, to our life in Gaza.â€ť
He had brought his family to a protest tent camp near Gaza City - one of five set up several hundred meters from the border fence - where he distributed water bottles to women and children sitting on a mat.