Israeli troops shot dead seven Palestinian protesters and wounded at least 200 along the Israel-Gaza border on Friday, Gaza medical officials said, raising the death toll to 27 in the week-long disturbances.
They said the demonstrators, including two teenage boys aged 16 and 17, were killed at protest sites along the frontier during a round of daily demonstrations that has been dubbed 'The Great March of Return'.
The day of violence, which saw bigger Palestinian crowds than in recent days but not as large as when the demonstration began last Friday, calmed down as night descended.
- Palestinian dies as Gaza protests continue
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Gazans, including Palestinian refugees and their descendants seeking to regain ancestral homes in what is now Israel, have set up tent encampments a few hundred metres inside the 65km fence that separates Israel from the Gaza Strip.
Large groups of youths have ventured much closer to the no-go zone along the barrier, risking live fire from Israeli troops to roll burning tyres and throw stones.
"Israel took everything from us, the homeland, freedom, our future," said Samer, a 27-year-old protester who would not give his full name, fearing Israeli reprisals. "I have two kids, a boy and a girl, and if I die, God will take care of them."
The number of protesters on Friday was larger than in recent days, but lower than the outset of the disturbances on March 30, when 17 Palestinians were fatally shot by Israeli forces. The Israeli military estimated Friday's turnout at around 20,000.
Refugees comprise most of the 2 million population of Israeli-blockaded Gaza, an enclave ruled by the Islamist movement Hamas which calls for Israel's destruction and is designated by Western states as a terrorist organisation.
Many of those killed were militants, said Israel, which stationed sharpshooters on the frontier to stop Palestinians attempting "any breach of the security infrastructure and fence, which protects Israeli civilians".