By Nour Abu Aisha
GAZA CITY, Palestine
For the 30th consecutive Friday, thousands of Palestinian demonstrators converged on the Gaza-Israel buffer zone to take part in mass demonstrations against Israel’s decades-long occupation.
In a statement, Gaza’s National Authority for Breaking the Siege renewed its call to the people of Gaza to take part in the ongoing rallies.
In a statement, Gaza’s Health Ministry said at least 77 Palestinian demonstrators had been injured by Israeli army gunfire during Friday's protest.
“At least 77 Palestinians sustained gunshot wounds, including two in very serious condition,” read the statement.
Among the injured was a journalist and a 70-year-old woman, the ministry said without giving further details.
Earlier Friday, Israel beefed up its troop-strength along the buffer zone in anticipation of Friday’s protests.
“The nature of the Israeli army's response to violence along the fence [i.e., buffer zone] is expected to change with the deployment of armor and… artillery forces around Gaza,” the Israeli Broadcasting Authority reported.
On Thursday, Israel’s Security Cabinet ordered the military to step up its response to the ongoing rallies along the buffer zone.
Since the demonstrations began on March 30, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed near the buffer zone -- and thousands more injured -- by Israeli army gunfire.
Protesters demand the right to return to their homes and villages in historical Palestine, from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.
They also demand an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its more than two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.