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As International Outrage Grows, Israeli Soldiers Injure Hundreds in Fourth Week of Gaza Protests

Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman was among those to express concern over the continuous violence

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Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition and tear gas at Palestinian protesters on Friday, April 20. (Photo: Ma'an News Agency)

Despite mounting concerns from the international community—including Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman—Israeli soldiers reportedly killed at least four Palestinians and injured hundreds on Friday as the March of Great Return continued for the fourth straight week in Gaza.

Snipers with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are still shooting Palestinians who are protesting Israeli occupation at the fenced border, even as human rights advocates worldwide have denounced Israel's "horrifying use of live ammunition against unarmed protesters." The Gaza Health Ministry said 729 Palestinians were wounded Friday—more than 150 of them by live fire.

Following reports that IDF shooters killed a 15-year-old Palestinian boy—bringing the death toll to 39—UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov turned to Twitter and demanded an investigation:

Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has treated hundreds of people injured by Israeli gunfire this month.

"Half of the more than 500 patients we have admitted in our clinics have injuries where the bullet has literally destroyed tissue after having pulverized the bone," said Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, head of the group's mission in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. "These patients will need to have very complex surgical operations, and most of them will have disabilities for life."

An investigation by the Jerusalem-based human rights group B'Tselem revealed that IDF soldiers have also deployed tear gas on the family encampments that are located several hundred meters away from the border fence.

"We went to a peaceful demonstration in Gaza," one woman told investigators. "There were entire families: children playing, women making bread, young men playing soccer. A tear gas canister landed near the tent. I screamed, the children and I choked, I couldn’t open my eyes, rescue teams arrived."

The violence on Friday elicited a fresh wave of concerns from human rights advocates. The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights reiterated calls for Americans to contact their representatives in Congress to demand action. 

In a series of tweets, Yousef Munayyer, the campaign's executive director, pointed out that "multiple protesters killed today in Gaza were shot by snipers IN THE HEAD," explaining that "in recent weeks we saw many victims from torso wounds and lower limb injuries." He also noted Portman's recent decision to cancel plans to travel to Israel for an award ceremony honoring her.

On Thursday, a representative for Portman had said in a statement: "Recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel," and that "she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony."

The decision—which has compelled right-wing Israeli politicians to demand that her citizenship be revoked—was a notable departure for the actress, who, in a 2015 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, had criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but also emphasized that she didn't want to use her platform to "shit on Israel."

Considering her past positions, as FAIR media critic Ben Norton put it, "this is big."

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