Palestinians killed in Gaza shelling: Ministry

Killing of Palestinian journalist protested in Istanbul

Israeli troops have shot dead 31 Gaza Palestinians and wounded hundreds since the protests began, drawing worldwide criticism of the lethal tactics used against them.

One Palestinian was killed and hundreds were injured in confrontations with Israeli soldiers at multiple spots along Gaza's border with Israel following a third consecutive Friday of protests dubbed "Burning Flag Friday", in reference to the Israeli blue and white flag.

Gaza health officials said 363 people were wounded by Israeli fire or treated for tear gas inhalation, but did not provide a breakdown.

The heavy shooting of bullets and tear gas by Israeli army did not prevent women demonstrators from joining the weekly rallies in border areas.

"Joining such protests brings us closer to returning to our homes that we were forced to leave", she said, holding stones in her hand. "An order to open live fire at unarmed protesters is manifestly unlawful", it said.

"Contrary to reports now circulating I can tell you that the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) is not aware of any IDF fire in the area surrounding Rafah", the spokesman said.

Israel and Egypt have enforced a blockade since Hamas overran the territory in 2007.

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Medics at the scene in the Rafah area said four Palestinians were killed by an Israeli tank shell but an Israeli military spokesman said the army was not involved.

Demonstrators burned Israeli flags and raised Palestinians ones. Walter Miller, U.S. representative to the United Nations, said "bad actors" were using the "protests as a cover to incite violence".

It has pledged to stop attacks, damage to the fence and infiltration bids, and says there have been attempts at all three. The Ministry said a total of 969 were injured on Friday.

Yair Lapid, the leader of Israel's centrist Yesh Atid party, called Hamas a "despicable terror organization" and accused it of exploiting civilians.

The group said in a statement that it was "mourning its fighters who were martyred during preparations".

"I am not afraid of death because there is no life in Gaza already", she said.

The group has been criticised in Israel for publishing often anonymous testimony by current or former Israeli soldiers who have misgivings about their military service and treatment of Palestinians.

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