A Palestinian journalist died on Saturday after being wounded by Israeli fire on Friday while covering deadly protests along the Israel-Gaza border, health officials said.

Yaser Murtaja, 30, a cameraman for Palestinian Ain Media, was the 29th Palestinian killed in the protests.

Photos showed Murtaja lying wounded on a stretcher wearing a navy-blue protective vest marked ‘PRESS’ in large black capital letters. Health officials said a live bullet had penetrated the side of his abdomen and he succumbed to his wounds in hospital.

A statement from the Israeli military said: “The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) does not intentionally target journalists. The circumstances in which journalists were allegedly hit by IDF fire are not familiar to the IDF and are being looked into.”

The daily protests, dubbed “The Great March of Return”, began on March 30 along the Israel-Gaza frontier, reviving a longstanding demand for the right of return of Palestinian refugees to towns and villages from which their families fled, or were driven out, when the state of Israel was created. Israel has stationed sharpshooters to stop attempts by Palestinians to breach the border or sabotage the security fence.

Freelance photographer Ashraf Abu Amra said he was next to Murtaja, whom he said was wearing a helmet and protective vest. Abu Amra said they were both clearly marked as journalists.

“We were filming as youths torched tyres. We were about 250 metres from the fence,” said Abu Amra. “Israeli forces opened fire and injuries began. Yaser and I ran to film when suddenly Yaser fell to the ground.

“I screamed to him ‘Yaser are you alright?’. He didn’t respond and there was blood on the ground underneath him. I knew it was a bad injury and people carried him away,” said Abu Amra.—Reuters

US blocks UN call for probe into Gaza violence

UNITED NATIONS: For the second time, the United States was the only UN Security Council member to reject a call by the 14 other countries to independently probe the Gaza clashes.

The US vetoed a UN Security Council (UNSC) statement calling on Secretary General Antonio Guterres to launch an independent inquiry into the Gaza violence. Put forward by Kuwait, a non-permanent UNSC member, it also reaffirmed the Palestinians’ right to peacefully oppose Israeli policies on the occupied lands.

Fourteen of the 15 Security Council members agreed to the statement, but the United States, Israel’s closest ally, voted against, Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday evening.

He said the UN rejection was “very irresponsible,” and that it gives Israel “the green light to continue with their onslaught against the civilian population” in Gaza.

Last Saturday, the US blocked a similar draft statement also introduced by Kuwait.

Maged Abdelaziz, the Arab League’s UN ambassador, said the Gaza violence will be discussed at a ministerial meeting in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh on April 12.

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