GAZA CITY — Palestinian organizers of the weekly clashes in the Gaza Strip along the Israeli border said they will hold another protest on Friday — in a key test of this week’s ceasefire between Israel and Gaza terror groups.
In their announcement, protest organizers in Gaza urged Palestinians to demonstrate Friday “to thank the resistance” for battling Israel.
But in statements on Facebook, organizers also urged demonstrators to stay away from the border fence.
Army Radio said on Thursday evening that Israel intercepted a truckload of balloons at the goods crossing into Gaza that it believed were intended to be used to carry incendiary devices, launched by Gazans into Israel to burn fields.
Tuesday’s ceasefire ended the heaviest fighting between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers since the 2014 war.
The fighting was fueled in part by the clashes. Since late March, thousands of Gazans have joined the Hamas-led demonstrations in an ostensible bid to end a crippling Israeli blockade, which Israel says is needed to prevent weapons smuggling by Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel.
Protesters frequently lob grenades, flaming tires and firebombs toward Israeli troops, who respond with tear gas and live fire. Some 170 Palestinians have been killed, some of them unarmed, by Israeli fire. Israel says it is defending its border against attackers. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of the fatalities were its members.
Hamas had lowered the intensity of the protests in recent weeks as UN and Egyptian mediators made progress toward an unofficial agreement with Israel.
But then this week’s fighting erupted after an Israeli undercover military operation in Gaza went awry.
Palestinian terrorists fired 460 rockets into Israel, while the Israeli Air Force responded by striking 160 targets in Gaza. The fighting left a total of 14 Palestinians, including 12 terrorists, dead. An Israeli officer was killed during the Gaza raid, while a Palestinian laborer who worked in Israel was killed in Ashkelon in a rocket attack from Gaza.
Hamas announced Thursday that Egyptian mediators had arrived in Gaza to work on promoting a deeper ceasefire arrangement with Israel.
Hamas and its supporters have celebrated the ceasefire as a victory against the powerful Israeli military.
In Israel, the ceasefire has triggered a political crisis. Avigdor Liberman, who favored a much harsher response, resigned as defense minister to protest the truce, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could soon be forced to call an early election.
Angry Israelis in rocket-scarred southern communities near Gaza have protested against the ceasefire in recent days. Another demonstration was being held Thursday night in Tel Aviv.
Also on Thursday, Israeli police said that a knife-wielding Palestinian attacker sneaked into a Jerusalem police station and lightly wounded four police officers before he was shot and apprehended.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the knife-wielding attacker climbed over the station’s fence late on Wednesday night and began stabbing officers inside. Other officers then shot the assailant, who was caught and taken to a hospital.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.