United Nations chief Guterres calls for investigation into recent violence at Gaza

At least 5 Palestinians shot dead by Israeli troops as thousands march on Gaza-Israel border for 'March of Return'

A mass protest of thousands of Palestinians along Gaza's border with Israel, billed as peaceful by its Hamas organizers, erupted in violence Friday, with at least 16 Palestinians killed and several hundred wounded in clashes with Israeli soldiers.

At least 12 Palestinians were killed and hundreds injured by Israeli security forces confronting one of the largest Palestinian demonstrations along the Israel-GAZA border in recent years, GAZA medical officials said.

On Friday, some 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza began what they call the "March of Return", a six-week-long protest demanding that refugees be allowed to return to their homes that are now in Israel.

The incident has prompted UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to call for an "independent and transparent" investigation into the violence and the use of military weaponry.

The Red Crescent is reporting 30 Palestinians wounded, mainly from tear gas inhalation and rubber-coated bullets, during protests in Hebron, Ramallah, and the Nablus area.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared a day of national mourning and shops in the West Bank were shuttered as residents observed a general strike ordered to protest against the killings. Other casualties followed armed clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, including the shelling of a Hamas observation point.

The "March of Return", Sinwar added, "affirms that our people can't give up one inch of the land of Palestine".

"We are here to declare today that our people will not agree to keep the "right of return" only as a slogan", he said.

The IDF's chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, has called the situation in Gaza "highly explosive".

The toll in the protests along the Gaza border with Israel has risen to 16, Haaretz reported.

Meanwhile, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, the deputy United Nations political affairs chief, told the Security Council that around 30,000 people participated in and around the March at various locations in Gaza. "If this continues we will not have no choice but to respond inside the Gaza Strip", Manelis told reporters in a phone briefing.

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The Palestinians have set up several tent camps to house thousands near the Israel-Gaza border.

The upcoming embassy move has added to tensions surrounding the march.

"The US provided a cover for Israel to continue its aggression on the Palestinian people and encourage it to defy global legitimacy resolutions that aim at ending the occupation", said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesperson of the Palestinian President said.

However, Israeli authorities have said the weekend's violence was caused by Hamas infiltrating protests and encouraging rioting.

The military sent a video to journalists showing men appearing to tamper with the separation fence and said that Hamas had earlier sent a seven-year-old girl across the border, whom Israeli soldiers returned to her parents.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007.

The UN security council held emergency talks to discuss the risks of further escalation but failed to agree on a statement.

Israel adamantly refuses to acknowledge the principle of the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants because this would be tantamount to accepting responsibility for what happened to them.

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a tweet directed to Gazans in both Hebrew and Arabic that "Hamas's leadership is playing with your life".

Friday's massacre coincided with the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover, which commemorates the exodus of the Jews from Egypt in their quest for freedom and autonomy.

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