Fires near the Gaza border seen in background of Nakba Day protests 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)
Over 60 Palestinians were injured and several fires broke out in the South in protests marking Nakba Day on Wednesday afternoon along the border fence between Gaza and Israel.
The IDF said around 10,000 Palestinians in several locations along the fence burned tires and threw stones and explosive devices toward troops. In addition, a number of attempts by Gazans to approach the security fence were identified by troops, who used riot control measures against the rioters.
Palestinian media also reported the IDF firing live bullets, tear gas and skunk spray at protesters trying to damage the border fence with Israel.
While the majority of injuries during the protests were from tear gas, rubber bullets and live bullets fired by Israeli troops, some were also reportedly inflicted by Hamas security officers.
Similar to Land Day protests in March, Hamas officers patrolled the border and placed members in orange vests between protesters and the security fence, in an attempt to restrain the violence as part of the ceasefire agreement the terrorist group made with Israel.
According to Palestinian reports, 22-year-old fisherman Murad al-Hisi from the al-Shati refugee camp was shot by rubber bullets from an IDF navy vessel as he was taking part in a naval protest in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. He was taken to hospital for medical care.
Several incendiary balloons were launched from the blockaded coastal enclave into the South, sparking nine fires in agricultural fields outside of the border communities, including Sokeda, Nahal Oz and Alumim.
Schools were closed by Hamas to allow students to join the demonstrations; the organizing committee of the weekly “Great March of Return” protests called for a general strike on Wednesday.
The IDF deployed additional snipers and hundreds of troops in main friction spots along the Gaza border fence in anticipation of violent riots during Nakba Day, marking the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.
Additional Iron Dome batteries – which were deployed across the South during the recent deadly violence between the IDF and terror groups in the Strip – remain operational.
The majority of demonstrators started to disperse by 4 p.m.
With demonstrations expected across the West Bank and Jerusalem, Ynet reported that hundreds of additional Border Police officers were deployed to Jerusalem’s Old City, several east Jerusalem neighborhoods and the crossing between Israel and the West Bank.
Hundreds of Palestinians in Ramallah marched from the grave of former Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat to the center of the city, calling for Palestinian refugees to return to lands in Israel.
Nakba Day, which commemorates the displacement of Palestinians during the War of Independence in 1948, is marked every year with demonstrations and violent clashes in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Last year over 60 Palestinians were killed by IDF fire in violent clashes.
The Gaza border protests began last March and have seen over half a million people violently demonstrating along the security fence, demanding an end to the 12-year-long blockade. Between several thousand and 45,000 congregate at points along the border range every day.
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 305 Palestinians, including 59 children and 10 women, were killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of the Great Return marches.
Another 17,335 suffered various injuries, including 3,565 children and 1,168 women.
This year, Nakba Day comes a week after a two-day escalation of hostilities between Israel and terror groups in the Strip, which saw close to 700 rockets fired by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, killing four Israeli civilians. In retaliation, Israel struck hundreds of targets in the coastal enclave, killing 25 Palestinians.