Two Palestinians were seriously injured by Israeli fire in clashes along the Gaza border on Tuesday evening, according to Palestinian media reports.
Thousands of Gazans had gathered at various points along the border with Israel to participate in the nighttime protest, which saw demonstrators burn tires, throw rocks at Israeli soldiers, and launch arson balloons into Israel, the reports said.
The Israel Defense Forces responded to the violence with live fire, injuring two Palestinians, according to the reports.
Earlier on Tuesday, firefighters said they battled 12 fires in southern Israel that were sparked by the airborne incendiary devices flown over the border. All of the fires were put out or under control by Tuesday evening, fire and rescue services said.
The return of the fire balloons come as tensions along the Gaza-Israel frontier have ramped back up after a brief lull, with the Hamas terror group leading weekly marches on the fence. The last several days have also seen smaller nightly protests along the border.
The uptick in violence followed several months of multiple daily attacks that left thousands of acres in southern Israel scorched and sparked fears of children being injured by bombs placed on balloons or kites and launched over the border.
The nighttime protest on Tuesday comes days after Gaza’s Hamas rulers called to step up the ongoing border protests in the wake of a report that Egypt-led efforts to broker a long-term ceasefire agreement with Israel had stalled. Hamas later denied reports the talks had collapsed, but the terror group’s spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri admitted that progress was slow.
A surge of violence in Gaza began in March with a series of protests along the border that were dubbed the “March of Return.”
The clashes, which Israel says are being orchestrated by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, have included regular rock and Molotov cocktail attacks on troops, as well as shooting and IED attacks aimed at IDF soldiers and attempts to breach the border fence.
Israel says its actions — and in particular the use of live ammunition — are necessary to defend the border and stop mass infiltrations from the territory.
On Friday, one Palestinian was reported killed and at least 312 were wounded as some 10,000 Palestinians protested on the Gaza Strip border, with some throwing explosive devices, rocks, and burning tires, as soldiers responded with tear gas and occasional live fire.
One Israeli soldier was lightly injured by shrapnel from a pipe bomb thrown at troops, the army said, adding that it spotted a number of infiltration attempts.
Over the weekend, Palestinians launched arson balloons over the border, sparking dozens of fires in southern Israel. In response, the IDF said Israeli aircraft fired at a group launching incendiary devices.
According to AP figures, more than 130 Gazans have been killed by Israeli fire since the start of the clashes. Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seized control of Gaza in 2007 and seeks to destroy Israel, has acknowledged that dozens of the Palestinian fatalities were its members.
An Israeli soldier was shot to death by a Palestinian sniper in July.
Additionally, Israel and Hamas have engaged in a number of brief exchanges of fire in recent months that have seen terror groups in Gaza launch hundreds of rockets and mortars toward Israeli territory, including one in July that was the largest flare-up in violence since the 2014 war.