ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 141

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Border policeman lightly hurt by explosive as thousands riot on Gaza border

2 Palestinians injured by IDF fire, demonstrators attempting to sabotage security fence; Palestinian said seriously injured by Israeli fire in West Bank during riot near Nablus

A Palestinian protester runs near burning tires during a demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 15, 2019. An Israeli military vehicle is pictured on the other side of the fence. (Said Khatib/AFP)
A Palestinian protester runs near burning tires during a demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 15, 2019. An Israeli military vehicle is pictured on the other side of the fence. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Some 11,000 Palestinians gathered near the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel Friday afternoon for weekly riots and protests against Israel, burning tires, throwing stones, explosive devices and trying to breach the fence.

An Israeli border police officer from an undercover unit was lightly wounded by shrapnel in the leg when a pipe bomb exploded next to his team, police said. He was evacuated to the hospital for treatment.

The army said 11,000 people took part in the protests and that some rioting was taking place, with demonstrators attempting to sabotage the border fence. Troops were responding with tear gas and occasional live fire to push protesters away from the barrier, it said.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said two Palestinians had been injured by live fire.

Meanwhile in the West Bank, the Ynet news site reported that a Palestinian was seriously wounded by Israeli fire during a riot in a village near Nablus.

The riot began after villagers in Urief held a protest prayer session in the eastern part of the village, to challenge the army’s recent move to block a path leading to residents’ agricultural lands. It was not immediately clear why the path had been sealed off.

Last Friday three people died and 17 were wounded during protests at the Gaza border. At the time, the Israeli army said some 8,200 rioters and demonstrators had gathered along the border to throw stones and a number of explosive devices towards troops.

Palestinian protesters run toward the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 15, 2019. An Israeli military vehicle is pictured on the other side of the fence. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Since last March, the Gaza border has seen large-scale weekly clashes on Fridays, smaller protests along the northern Gaza border on Tuesdays, as well as periodic flareups between the Israeli military and Palestinian terror organizations.

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

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

In recent weeks, tensions between Israel and terror groups in Gaza rose after a Palestinian sniper opened fire on a group of Israeli soldiers. The bullet hit the helmet of an officer, lightly injuring him.

Earlier this month Israel announced that it had begun the final phase of construction of a 20-foot (some 6 meters) high galvanized steel fence that will completely surround the Strip.

The barrier will extend 65 kilometers (40 miles) miles around the enclave and sit atop the subterranean concrete wall that Israel is constructing around Gaza to block terrorist groups’ attack tunnels.

An Israeli Military Intelligence assessment released Wednesday warned that Hamas, the terror group that controls Gaza, may seek to spark a war with Israel in the near future in an attempt to elicit international sympathy and an influx of international aid money to the Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces believes Hamas or the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second largest terror group in Gaza, could attempt to draw Israel into a war by conducting an attack along the border — an anti-tank missile strike, an ambush from an as-yet-undiscovered tunnel or a similar low-level but significant attack.

In light of this view, IDF chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, whose tenure began last month, called for the military to update operational plans for fighting in the Gaza Strip.

AFP contributed to this report.

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