Navy fires in warning as Gazans try to sail burning tires on rafts toward Israel
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Navy fires in warning as Gazans try to sail burning tires on rafts toward Israel

Thousands rally near northern sea border. Rioters hurl rocks and bomb at troops, who respond with tear gas, live fire; navy pushes back flotilla’s attempt to break through blockade

Palestinians protest at a beach in northern Gaza, September 10, 2018 (Screenshot: Twitter video)
Palestinians protest at a beach in northern Gaza, September 10, 2018 (Screenshot: Twitter video)

The Israeli Navy fired warning shots towards Palestinians at a beach in the northern Gaza Strip Monday evening, as thousands demonstrated near the coastal border with Israel, and some attempted to sail makeshift rafts with burning tires towards Israel.

At least 2,000 Palestinians gathered at Gaza’s northern beaches to demonstrate, according to local reports. Protesters burned tires and hurled rocks at Israeli troops near the border, and several threw a makeshift bomb at the soldiers, the army said.

Troops near the border fence used tear gas and other less lethal means against protesters, as well as live fire in certain cases in accordance with open-fire regulations, according to the military. Palestinians reported several injuries, though the specific number was not immediately clear.

Earlier several dozen boats took part in a protest flotilla trying break Israel’s naval blockade off Gaza’s coast, in what has become a common occurrence in recent weeks. The Navy fired warning shots towards the boats and they moved back, according o the army.

Organizers have said the flotillas are part of the “March of Return” protests along Israel’s border, and are meant to highlight the importance of lifting the blockade on the Strip.

Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza since Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, violently seized the territory from the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority in 2007. It says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip.

On Sunday ID soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian who repeatedly tried to sabotage the Gaza Strip border fence, the army said.

On Saturday, the IDF said it would investigate the events surrounding the recent deaths of two Palestinians at the Gaza border, including that of a 16-year-old who was shot on Friday during protests and who succumbed to his wounds on Saturday.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said Friday that a 17-year-old was also killed and that nearly 400 Gazans were wounded in the violent protests.

Around 7,000 Palestinians took part in the weekly clashes.

The Israeli military said demonstrators hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at soldiers, who responded with tear gas and other less-lethal means. Troops fired at Palestinians who attempted to breach the border fence and enter Israel.

The army said it struck two Hamas posts in the Strip. One was attacked in response to a grenade thrown towards troops along the border, while another was hit after protesters damaged military infrastructure.

Balloons with incendiary devices attached were again flown across the border, after being largely absent in recent weeks. Two fires broke out in Israel as a result of the arson attacks.

Friday’s protests were the first since the US announced it was cutting all aid to UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for Palestinian humanitarian assistance.

Recent weeks have seen relatively less violence at the border than at the height of the protests some months ago.

A young Palestinian uses a slingshot to hurl stones at Israeli forces during clashes along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, east of Gaza City, on September 7, 2018. (AFP/Said Khatib)

There have long been reports of talks on a UN- and Egypt-brokered truce agreement that would end the months-long flareup of hostilities — the most severe since the 2014 war.

The 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 Gaza’s Hamas rulers orchestrated, have included rock and Molotov cocktail attacks on troops, as well as attempts to breach the border fence and attack Israeli soldiers.

Since the protests began in March, at least 127 Palestinians have been killed in the clashes, according to a tally from The Associated Press. Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, has acknowledged that dozens of those killed were its members. During that time, a Gaza sniper killed an Israeli soldier.

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