By Safiye Karabacak
GAZA CITY/RAMALLAH, Palestine
Dozens of Palestinians were injured on Friday while taking part in ongoing rallies along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
In a statement, ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said that 40 demonstrators had been hurt -- including three in critical condition -- by Israeli troops deployed along the other side of the buffer zone.
Protesters demand the right to return to their homes 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.
Since the Gaza rallies began on March 30, more than 210 Palestinians have been martyred -- and thousands more injured -- by Israeli army gunfire and teargas.
In a related development, several Palestinians were injured by Israeli troops while taking part in anti-settlement demonstrations in the occupied West Bank, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC).
In a statement, the PRC said three Palestinians had been wounded by rubber bullets while taking part in protests in the village of Ras Karkar near Ramallah and the village of Kafr Qadum near the city of Tulkarm.
Dozens of other Palestinians suffered teargas inhalation after being dispersed by Israeli forces in the village of Bilin west of Bethlehem, the PRC added.
According to Palestinian figures, more than 700,000 Israeli Jews live on 196 settlements (built with the Israeli government’s approval) and more than 200 settler outposts (built without government approval) across the occupied West Bank.
International law views the West Bank and East Jerusalem as "occupied territories" and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there as illegal.