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Israeli forces wound dozens of Palestinian protesters in Gaza

Of 189 peaceful protesters wounded on Friday, 73 were hospitalised and 50 were hit by live ammunition
At least 171 Palestinians have been killed during Great March of Return protests since late March (Reuters)

At least 189 Palestinian protesters were wounded by Israeli soldiers in Gaza on Friday as demonstrators in the besieged strip continued their weekly protests as a part of the Great March of Return.

Of the peaceful protesters wounded on Friday, 73 were hospitalised and 50 were hit by live ammunition, according to the Gaza health ministry spokesman. The rest were treated on the scene.

In late March, Palestinians launched the Great March of Return, gathering peacefully along the "buffer zone" in Gaza near the fence separating it from Israel.

The protest campaign calls for an end to the 11-year Israeli-led blockade on Gaza and for Palestinian refugees' right of return to the lands that their families fled during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

At least 171 Palestinians in Gaza, including demonstrators, journalists and medics have been killed by Israeli forces during the protests since then.

Earlier this week, the chair of a UN Human Rights Council investigation into Israel's use of force against protesters in Gaza stepped down less than a month after being appointed.

Former Pentagon official David Crane resigned from the inquiry for "personal reasons", according to a statement by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in the Palestinian territories, Israeli settlers destroyed 30 olive trees in a village south of Nablus in the West Bank on Friday, official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

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Settlers regularly uproot, burn and destroy olive trees in the West Bank, a source of income for Palestinian farmers that also symbolises Palestinians' attachment to their land.

Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian Authority official who monitors settlements, told WAFA that settler attacks against Palestinian civilians have increased lately, and the assaults are happening under the protection of Israel's army.

Meanwhile, the United States will "redirect" more than $200m in economic aid for projects to Palestinians, a US State Department official told Reuters on Friday.

"We have undertaken a review of US assistance to the Palestinian Authority and in the West Bank and Gaza to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with US national interests and provide value to the US taxpayer," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"As a result of that review, at the direction of the president, we will redirect more than $200 million in FY2017 Economic Support Funds originally planned for programmes in the West Bank and Gaza. Those funds will now address high-priority projects elsewhere."

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