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Protests In Gaza Continue


We're going to turn now to Gaza. Palestinians there say Israeli troops have killed one man so far. This continues a week of demonstrations and clashes along the Israeli-Gaza border. Palestinian officials say the Israeli military has killed at least 20 other Palestinians over the week in border areas. Now Israel says its troops are protecting its border. Rights groups have accused them of excessive force. This has been the worst violence in Gaza in years. And NPR's Daniel Estrin is right in Gaza City and joins me. Daniel, it sounds like some of these demonstrations are going on as we speak. What are you seeing?

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Right. I'm actually - right now I'm not in Gaza City any longer. I'm at the Gaza border. It's unsafe to be right up at the border. So I'm not really seeing what's happening directly there. I see some black smoke billowing up from the border where Palestinians burned tires. There's some kites in the sky. A few times, I saw tear gas fired. And then just a few moments ago, we heard what sounded like gunshots. A lot of people ran. We also ran back with them. I'm unclear what that's about. But before we saw young Palestinians joy-riding into this border area on three-wheelers with tires - bringing tires to burn.

GREENE: And burning tires is something that we often see there? What does that mean or what does that tell us about these - you know, these events?

ESTRIN: Well, Palestinians are actually calling today the day of tires because they said they were going to burn tires to create a smoke screen so that Israeli soldiers on the other side of the border fence wouldn't be able to see them. But Palestinians say they're here to support the right of Palestinians to return to lands lost to Israel 70 years ago. They're also protesting conditions in Gaza. There are power cuts here. There's very high unemployment. And Gaza's been under blockade by Israel and Egypt for a decade.

GREENE: Now, I know you've been trying to sort out exactly what is happening because we have, you know, different sides saying different things. I know you've been talking to doctors who've actually treated people wounded here. You've talked to the Israeli army. Have you gotten a better picture of exactly what has been going on in this violence?

ESTRIN: Well, Palestinians said last week when the protests began, hundreds were injured by Israeli fire. Israel disputes that, says that only tens of Palestinians were injured. We went to one hospital, one of many in Gaza treating the wounded last week. And they said that they had had at least 100 people in surgery for serious wounds. Now, the army has been warning people away from the border fence. And it says Hamas the militant group knows that's an area that is a hostile - a military zone. And Israel says there have been a few people trying to cross through the border fence last week - in a couple of cases, a pair of people firing on its troops.

GREENE: Could this continue? I mean, do you expect this to escalate?

ESTRIN: We're going to see what happens today, David. Palestinians say these protests will continue until mid-May. And, you know, one question that people are asking is, is Israel's force proportionate to what's happening? Rights groups say no. And some videos show that soldiers were firing at people, a couple of Palestinians shot some distance from the fence. Israel's saying that its force is proportionate and that people are posing a threat to their soldiers at the border.

GREENE: All right. That's NPR's Daniel Estrin along the Israeli-Gaza border. Daniel, thanks so much.

ESTRIN: You're welcome, David.


Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.
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