The U.S. is "deeply saddened" by the deaths of more than a dozen Palestinian protesters in Gaza on Friday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
Seventeen Palestinians died and more than 1,400 others were injured in confrontations with Israeli security forces as protesters marched along the border fence between Israel and Gaza, CNN reported, citing the Palestinian representative to the United Nations.
Israeli officials estimated that tens of thousands of Palestinians marched in the area as part of the "March of Return" along the border, according to CNN.
"We are deeply saddened by loss of life in #Gaza today. We urge those involved to take steps to lower tensions," Nauert tweeted Friday evening.
"[International] community is focused on taking steps that will improve the lives of the Palestinians and is working on a plan for peace. Violence furthers neither of those goals," she added.
We are deeply saddened by loss of life in #Gaza today. We urge those involved to take steps to lower tensions. Int'l community is focused on taking steps that will improve the lives of the Palestinians and is working on a plan for peace. Violence furthers neither of those goals.— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) March 30, 2018
The Israel Defense Forces guarding the border fence said in a statement that they were forced to take measures to disperse the crowd when the protesters began hurling stones and rolling burning tires toward the fence as thousands marched in recognition of Palestinian Land Day, which remembers the confiscation of Palestinian-owned land in 1976.
A total of 1,416 were injured by a combination of live and rubber bullets and gas inhalation by the end of Friday's marches, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, according to CNN.