Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, announced that five of the Palestinians who died during a protest near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on Friday were its members.According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, the IDF killed 15 Palestinians and wounded more than 1,400 others during the protest, which took place in multiple locations on the Gazan side of the border.
“Lucky Kassam fighters were among the martyrs,” the Kassam Brigades said in a statement on Saturday.Friday’s protesters gathered at the border to demand the return of Palestinian refugees to their former homes in Israel, according to a Facebook page created for the event.However, the IDF described the protest as “a violent riot,” and reported that protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli security forces as well as opened fire on them, attempted to infiltrate Israel’s borders and set rubber tires on fire.Photographs and videos appear to show that some protesters took part in violent actions while others did not.In the past week, several IDF officials called on Palestinians not to approach the border fence, warning that to do so would put them in danger. According to organizers, Friday’s protest was the first in a series of protests that are slated to take place over the next six weeks along the border.The Kassam Brigades vowed that armed groups in the Gaza Strip would avenge the death of the Palestinians killed during the protest.“The blood of the pure martyrs will not go to waste. The enemy will pay a price at a time and place and in a way that the resistance decides,” they said.Funerals were held on Saturday for the Kassam members as well as the others who were killed.Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared on Friday evening that Saturday would be “a day of national mourning” and said that Israel bears full responsibility for the Palestinians’ deaths.In the West Bank on Saturday, a number of Palestinian businesses were closed to protest the deaths. A video of Nablus on Saturday that was shared on Facebook showed relatively empty streets.In a statement on its Twitter account on Saturday, Hamas called on Abbas to restore funding to Gaza that he cut last year.“Respecting and appreciating the martyrs and wounded requires actions, the least of which is Abbas lifting the sanctions he imposed on Gaza and its people,” the statement said. Though in recent months Abbas has restored some of the funding, he has not fully reinstated the budgets he slashed.
Palestinians mark "Land Day" with protests on Israel-Gaza border (Reuters)