Gaza Health Ministry: Four Palestinians dead in Gaza explosion

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Clashes erupted as thousands protested for a third consecutive Friday along Gaza's border with Israel amid violence in which Israeli forces have killed 34 Palestinians and wounded hundreds of others.

According to initial reports, the four were said to be killed by Israeli army fire; the Palestinian Health Ministry reported that the bodies were taken to a hospital in the city.

Prior to Friday, Israeli forces injured nearly 1,300 Palestinians with live fire, according to the Gaza Health Ministry's count calculated through computerized tracking.

The protests, planned to last six weeks, are calling for Palestinian refugees to return to their former homes that are now inside Israel - which Israelis said essentially amounts to calling for the country's destruction.

The official end date of the protests is May 15, when Palestinians mark the Nakba, or "catastrophe", commemorating the more than 700,000 who fled or were expelled during the 1948 war surrounding Israel's creation.

Critics argue that Hamas' refusal to disarm is a key reason for the continued blockade.

"The IDF will not permit damage to the security fence or infrastructure that protects Israeli citizens and will act against the violent rioters and terrorists involved", the IDF said, per The Times of Israel.

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More than 30 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire since the start of "Flag Friday" demonstrations two weeks ago.

The marches are organised by Gaza's Islamic militant group Hamas, but turnout is also being driven by desperation among the territory's two million residents.

Yair Lapid, the leader of Israel's centrist Yesh Atid party, called Hamas a "despicable terror organisation" and accused it of exploiting civilians. The Ministry said a total of 969 were injured on Friday. "An order to open live fire at unarmed protesters is manifestly unlawful", it said.

Human rights groups have said soldiers can only use lethal force if they face an apparent imminent threat to their lives.

Organizers of the protests have said they are meant to be "nonviolent resistance".

The five ex-snipers in Friday's statement were identified by name.

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