United Nations urges Israel, Hamas to avoid violence on Gaza anniversary

Screenshot from AIPAC livestream

The organization has called for a world embargo on arms sales to Israel.

US House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, a Democrat from NY, delivers opening remarks before hearing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testify before the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs subcommittee about his department's 2020 budget request, on March 27, 2019 in Washington, DC.

The blockade is cited by humanitarian agencies as a key reason for impoverishment in the narrow coastal enclave into which 2 million Palestinians are packed.

The statement says 195 Palestinians, including some 40 children, have been killed at the hands of Israeli forces during the past year.

Hamas faces growing unrest in Gaza as a result of worsening conditions after more than a decade of Israeli and Egyptian border closures.

Saturday's demonstrations were held at five rallying points along the border with Israel.

At least 258 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the protests began on March 30 a year ago, most during the border clashes.

The commissioners concluded that, while demonstrations were "at times violent, " 187 of those killings were unlawful cases in which protesters didn't pose an imminent threat to life or where force was "neither necessary nor proportional" and that Israeli forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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Eager to get a big turnout on the anniversary, organisers set up loudspeakers at protest camps along the border, blaring out Palestinian nationalist songs at full volume.

The two countries imposed the blockade in 2007 after Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seeks Israel's destruction, seized control of Gaza from the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority. The main Gaza City hospital has erected a triage tent in anticipation of a massive influx of casualties.

Earlier on Friday, a United Nations official urged both sides to avoid a violent escalation at the border demonstration.

He stressed, according to Al Ray, that the March of Return and Breaking Siege, with all available resources, will continue, explaining that "it emphasizes the unity of our people and the vitality of its cause, and will never stop until the achievement of its objectives in full".

The border marches routinely ended in confrontations, with some of the Palestinian demonstrators burning tires, hurling fire bombs or setting off explosives and Israeli troops firing live rounds and tear gas.

At least 62 Palestinians were killed that day by Israeli gunfire and hundreds wounded. But Israel has come under heavy global criticism for the large number of unarmed people who have been harmed.

Haniyeh surveyed the rubble of former office in Gaza City, which had been destroyed in an Israeli air strike. Haniyeh made his first public appearance since a new round of cross-border violence with Israel this week.

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