10,000 Palestinians protest on Gaza border, 24 said injured

Regular Friday demonstration comes with an Egyptian delegation said to be in the Strip in attempt to maintain relative calm

Palestinians demonstrate near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 1, 2019. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
Palestinians demonstrate near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 1, 2019. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Some 10,000 Palestinians took part in violent protests along the Gaza border on Friday, burning tires and hurling rocks and explosive devices at IDF soldiers.

Troops were responding to the demonstrators with tear gas and occasional live fire.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said 23 protesters were injured by live fire in clashes with Israeli security forces along the border and a female paramedic was hit in the face with a tear gas canister.

The weekly protest comes with an Egyptian security delegation reportedly in the Gaza Strip to meet Hamas leaders and discuss efforts to maintain calm in and around the coastal enclave. The delegation is being led by Ahmed Abdelkhaliq, the official in the Egyptian General Intelligence Services responsible for Palestinian affairs, reports said.

For the past several months, Egypt, United Nations special coordinator to the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov and Qatar have worked to preserve calm in Gaza and prevent flareups between Israel and terror groups in the Strip.

Last week, tensions between Israel and terror groups in Gaza rose after a Palestinian sniper opened fire on a group of IDF soldiers. The bullet hit the helmet of an officer, lightly injuring him, the army said at the time.

Palestinian protesters carry national flags as they participate in a demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 1, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The IDF added that in response to the incident, it struck an observation post belonging to Hamas in eastern Gaza, near the Bureij refugee camp. The terror group’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, said one of its members was killed in the strike.

Friday’s protests were held at various locations along the border under the banner of Hamas’s ongoing “March of Return” demonstrations.

Since March, Palestinians have been holding weekly “March of Return” protests on the border, which Israel has accused Gaza’s Hamas rulers of using to carry out attacks on troops and attempt to breach the security fence.

Israel has demanded an end to the violent demonstrations along the border in any ceasefire agreement.

Their organizers have said the protests aim to achieve the “return” of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands that are now part of Israel, and pressure the Jewish state to lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave.

Israeli officials hold that the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants would destroy Israel’s Jewish character. They also maintain that the restrictions on movement are in place to prevent Hamas and other terrorist groups from smuggling weapons into the Strip.

Hamas, which violently seized control of Gaza in 2007 from the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, is a terror group that seeks to destroy Israel.

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