A Palestinian journalist shot by Israeli forces during a mass demonstration along the Gaza border has died of his wounds, Al Jazeera reported today.
Yasser Murtaja, a photographer with the Gaza-based Ain Media agency, was shot in the stomach in Khuza’a, southern Gaza Strip on Friday, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
Murtaja, 30, was hit despite wearing a blue flak jacket marked with the word “press”, discerning him as a journalist.
Hosam Salem, a photographer at the scene of the incident told Al Jazeera on Friday that he witnessed Murtaja drop to the ground after he was shot by Israeli forces.
“Yaser was filming with his camera next to me when we heard the sound of gunfire,” Salem said. “He just fell on the ground and said, ‘I’ve been shot, I’ve been shot’.”
The health ministry also announced on Saturday the death of another man, 20-year-old Hamza Abdel Aal, bringing the number of those killed during Friday’s protests to nine.
A total of 31 Palestinians have now been shot dead since the start of the protests on March 30, when tens of thousands took to the border area with Israel, demanding the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullet and tear gas fired at the rallies by Israeli soldiers wounded at least 1,600 thus far.
The Palestinian health ministry reported that on Friday 293 people were injured by live ammunition after Israeli forces fired on protesters who had gathered near the Israeli border in the besieged Gaza Strip.
Friday’s demonstration was the second in as many weeks of a planned, weeks-long sit-in dubbed the Great March of Return.
Its main message is to call for the right of return for Palestinian refugees who were driven from their homes in the territories taken over by Israel during the 1948 war, known to Arabs as the Nakba.
Around 70 percent of Gaza’s two million population were forced from their homes and now live in a territory of about 360sq km, which has been described as “the world’s largest open-air prison”.
Israel has drawn sharp criticism for its open-fire orders along the border, including its warnings that those approaching or trying to damage the fence would be targeted.