At least 14 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli gunfire Friday during protests along the Gaza border, the enclave’s health ministry said, as a lull in deadly violence held after a truce deal last week.
Thousands of demonstrators turned out for the protests but largely kept their distance from the fortified frontier. Health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said 14 people were injured by Israeli army fire along the border, including “a child shot in the chest east of the Al-Bureij refugee camp” in the central Gaza Strip.
An AFP correspondent said protesters held back from launching burning tyres or balloons carrying flaming material towards Israel — tactics they have frequently employed since the border protests began in March. Demonstrators were directed “to keep back from the separation fence and to maintain peaceful protests… to give a chance to Egyptian efforts to calm things down”, an organiser told AFP.
It marked the second straight Friday of lighter protests since an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire on November 13 ended the worst flare-up between Israel and Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas since a 2014 war. Efforts to reach a more lasting truce have angered Israeli right-wing rivals of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
It brought the government to the brink of collapse when the defence minister resigned last week and took his party out of the ruling coalition.
Netanyahu was able to avoid snap elections when another key minister pledged on Monday to stay on board, despite sharp disagreements with the premier. Gaza border tensions have soared since the March 30 start of what the Palestinians call the “Great March of Return”, a mass protest movement demanding the right for Palestinians to return to homes they fled or were expelled from during the war surrounding Israel’s creation.
Protesters have often moved right up to the border fence every Friday and occasionally breached it. At least 235 Palestinians have since been killed, mostly by Israeli fire during border clashes but also by air strikes. Two Israeli soldiers have been killed over the same period.
A senior Hamas official said a delegation headed by the Islamist group had arrived in Cairo on Wednesday to meet with Egyptian officials on efforts to “stabilise the truce” with Israel. The meeting was also expected to address reconciliation between Hamas and its rival party Fatah, headed by Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas.