LATEST: Four killed as Israel cracks down on Gaza's 'March of a Million'
Palestinians are expected to show up en masse on Friday for the "March of a Million for Jerusalem", marking both International Jerusalem Day and the 51st anniversary of the 1967 Middle East war.
Israeli forces have been on high alert since Thursday, with snipers and tanks stationed along the fence, raising fears that the rallies could be violently repressed once again.
We'll be keeping you updated here throughout the day.
Warning: Some of the images shared on this live blog depict sensitive and graphic scenes.
News agency Reuters has published some incredibly disturbing images of a Palestinian protester who was struck in the face by a tear gas canister.
The Gaza ministry of health gave an updated casualty toll at 7pm local time (4pm GMT), reporting 618 wounded Palestinians in addition to three dead.
The three dead were identified as:
- Youssef al Fasih, 29
- Ziad Jadallah al-Barim, age unknown
- Imad Nabil Abu Darabi, 26
- Haitham Mohammed al-Jamal, 15
Among the wounded are 48 minors, two medics, and five journalists. At least 117 demonstrators were injured after being hit with live bullets, the ministry added.
The Gaza health ministry has just reported that a Palestinian, identified as Ziad Jadallah al-Barim, was killed east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.
He is the first person to have died during Friday's protests, although at least 525 Palestinians have been wounded, the ministry added.
More than 250,000 people are reported to be attending Friday's Gay Pride Parade and beach party in Tel Aviv, just 70 kilometres north of Gaza.
Israel's Haaretz newspaper said that "ripped men in white underwear, pink bunny ears and black bow ties" were "gyrating through the streets" of the city, which neighbours the historic Palestinian port of Jaffa from where many refugees fled in 1948 to Gaza, where they and their families have remained trapped ever since.
Limor, a young Israeli participant in the parade, told MEE: "Today is a day of connection, I feel a connection with everybody, I feel free, without obstacles or borders."
Asked whether they saw a difference between the rights they were fighting for in Tel Aviv, and the rights of Palestinians in Gaza she said: "In Israel and Gaza, people suffer and this is because of a problem in leadership. We are all human beings, and we don’t suffer less than the people in Gaza... The people in Gaza misuse the resources we send them."
Another participant, Michal, told MEE: "What is happening in Gaza is a human accident, without any connection to what is happening here. I regret it and it hurts me, but I'm just not going to play it as if it's a problem. I do not see a connection between the joy of sexual identity and what is happening in Gaza. There is no need to force a connection, but the struggle is about freedom and I wish that the struggle in Gaza was about love and union."
Critics accuse Israel of promoting the event as part of a "pinkwashing" campaign to promote a liberal image of the country and conceal human rights abuses suffered by Palestinians.
Israeli gay rights activists also pointed out on Friday that same-sex marriage is still banned in the country, and that bills to improve LGBTQ rights had repeatedly stalled in the Knesset.
The +972 website reported that hundreds of LGBTQ activists blocked the route of the parade for a while to protest against the Israeli government's "cynical exploitation of the LGBTQ struggle".
A flyer that the activists tried to distribute to participants in the parade said: "We don’t want to bring down the mood, we swear. We are queers who want to celebrate our amazing identities and struggle for our rights together. But not at the expense of the rights of others.
"The Israel government is exploiting us to appear liberal and progressive, while violating the rights of Palestinians on a regular basis — this is called pinkwashing."
Since the beginning of the Great March of Return on 30 March, the Israeli army has fully incorporated tear gas-dropping drones into its arsenal against protesters in Gaza.
MEE's own Daniel Hilton took a look at Israel's new use of this technology last month, and how the increased range of the devices brings about heightened danger for targeted Palestinians.
Middle East Eye has interviewed Palestinian political activist Ahmed Abu Artema, who launched the Great March of Return about the goals and implications of the protest movement.
"The March of Return concept is not a traditional way of protesting. It is not an armed struggle or a silent and passive calmness which led to more sanctions by Israel and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. The concept was that we could protest and demonstrate without going to war," Abu Artema explains to MEE's Mustafa Abu Sneineh.
A great primer for those who have questions on the origins of the movement that has taken over Gaza in the past two-and-a-half months.