Seven Palestinians were killed and hundreds more wounded during weekly “March of Return” protests along the Gaza border fence on Friday, which also saw more than 100 explosive devices hurled at IDF troops.
The fatalities were identified by the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza as: 12-year-old Nasser Musabbeh, 14-year-old Mohammad Nayef al-Houm, 18-year-old Mohammad Ali Inshasi, 20-year-old Iyad Khalil Shaer, 24-year-old Mohammad Walid Haniya, 24-year-old Mohammad Bassam Shakhsa and 26-year-old Mohammad Ashraf Awawdeh.
Thousands attended their funerals in Gaza City, El-Bureij refugee camp and Khan Yunis in the Hamas-run coastal enclave.
The Palestinian news agency Wafa said another 508 were injured in the protests, including 90 from live bullets. Among the injured, 35 were children, four women, four paramedics and two journalists.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters in New York on Friday that Israel was “prepared for any scenario” in Gaza and that “these were not just idle words.”
He blamed the crisis on the crumbling economy and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
When he met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly late Wednesday night, he asked Sisi to help restore calm in Gaza.
According to the IDF, more than 20,000 protesters took part in the demonstrations, throwing explosive devices, grenades and stones at soldiers and burning tires. A number of attempts to cross the border also occurred.
The IDF responded with crowd-dispersal techniques. Israeli aircraft also carried out two strikes against Hamas positions.
“Hamas continues its terrorist activities in the Gaza Strip, cynically using Gazan residents and endangering children sent to the fence as a cover for terrorist activities,” the IDF said, adding that Hamas is responsible for the violence and its consequences.
“The IDF is determined to continue to act to protect the citizens of Israel and against those who seek to harm Israel’s security. The IDF is prepared to act in the face of similar events and those who attempt to carry out terrorist activities will encounter a severe response.”
The military released footage of the demonstrations, which were the most violent seen in the past two months. On Saturday, troops were still busy carrying out controlled explosions of the unexploded improvised explosive devices thrown by Palestinians a day earlier.
Following several improvised devices planted along the fence in recent weeks, the military has warned of an increased use in such devices, as well as grenades and possibly live fire against troops.
Close to 190 Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured since the outbreak of the border protests, which began March 30 and which call for an end to the 12-year-long Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Gazans have also begun gathering for violent demonstrations from early evening until midnight, pointing lasers at IDF snipers, as well as blasting songs and other loud messages aimed at Israeli civilians living in the Gaza vicinity. They have also been launching incendiary balloons toward the South.
According to Haaretz, Hamas has been significantly bolstering their forces in recent weeks as reconciliation talks with the Palestinian Authority have broken down and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens.
The Gazan terror group had also vowed to intensify riots in response to the collapse of the Egypt-mediated talks with Israel for a cease-fire.
On Saturday, a senior Hamas delegation led by the group’s deputy leader Khalil al-Hayya left the Gaza Strip for another round of talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo in an attempt to reach an agreement with the PA, and a long-term cease-fire with Israel.Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
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