Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated on Wednesday near the Israeli border in the southern Gaza Strip, days after a similar gathering turned violent.
The Israeli military, which had beefed up its forces ahead of the demonstration, said it was using tear gas and live fire to disperse the crowd.
Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV showed in a live broadcast, crowds of people approaching the fence, then running away when an Israeli military vehicle arrived. Tear gas could be seen floating in the wind.
The military said it was using .22 caliber gunfire, a crowd dispersal means that is less lethal than more powerful firearms but can still be deadly.
Palestinian medical sources claimed at least 14 protesters were wounded, though details of their injuries weren't immediately known.
Members of Hamas were tasked with restraining demonstrators, but due to their small numbers many managed to bypass them and move toward the fence, Hamas sources claimed.
During a demonstration on Saturday, rioters stormed the border wall that was recently completed by Israel hundreds of meters away from the Gaza border, resulting in violent clashes.
A Border Police officer was critically wounded when a Palestinian militant shot him in the head through a hollow in the wall at point-blank range, while over 40 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli fire. One of the wounded, Osama Dueji, died of his wounds Wednesday. Gaza’s ruling Hamas militant group identified him as a member of its armed wing.
Lt. Col. Amnon Shefler, an Israeli military spokesman, said that demonstrators on Saturday fired weapons and lobbed explosives at soldiers and tried to tear down the wall.
“They are presenting riots as peaceful,” he said. “In reality, these riots are extremely violent.” He declined to say how many troops had been mobilized on Wednesday but said the number was much larger than on Saturday and included riot-control forces.
Hamas has organized the protests in an attempt to put pressure on Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza and its attempts to delay the territory's reconstruction efforts following an 11-day conflict with the Jewish state that decimated large swathes of the enclave.
Since an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire brought an end to hostilities between Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups after the 11-days of fighting in May, Gaza militants have sporadically sent explosive-laden balloons into Israel which responded by launching airstrikes on Hamas targets in the Palestinian enclave.
The latest attack took place late on Monday after Gaza arson balloons caused nine brush fires in southern Israel.
The Israeli Air Force also struck Hamas targets in the central and northern Gaza Strip on Saturday.
Last week, Israel reached an agreement with Qatar to allow the Gulf country to resume aid payments to thousands of impoverished Gaza families.
Under the new system, the payments will be delivered by the United Nations directly to families that have been vetted by Israel. In the past, the aid was delivered as cash straight to Hamas.
The payments are expected to begin in the coming weeks, providing some relief in Gaza.
Egypt, which serves as a mediator between Israel and Hamas, has been working to broker a longer-term truce to end hostilities on the border.
This week, Egypt closed its border crossing with Gaza, the main exit point for the territory’s people to travel abroad, in a show of frustration with Hamas.
First published: 19:07, 08.25.21