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Thousands stream to border for mass rallies against Israel

Palestinian reported killed in Gaza border clashes

Another 14 said wounded in weekly ‘March of Return’ protests, which come just days after major flareup between Israel and Hamas

A Palestinian demonstrator uses a slingshot to throw stones towards Israeli forces during a protest on November 16, 2018, on the eastern outskirts of Gaza City, near the border with Israel. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
A Palestinian demonstrator uses a slingshot to throw stones towards Israeli forces during a protest on November 16, 2018, on the eastern outskirts of Gaza City, near the border with Israel. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

At least one Palestinian was killed and more than a dozen injured during clashes on the Gaza border Friday with Israeli troops, Palestinian media reports said. The protests came despite IDF warnings that there would be “zero tolerance” for violence.

There was no immediate confirmation of the death from the Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip, which said 14 people had been brought to hospitals with injuries.

Some 8,000 Palestinians were gathering at the border, with thousands more heading to the protests, as of Friday afternoon. Most people were staying away from the border fence, although some were burning tires and throwing rocks at soldiers who responded with tear gas and occasional live fire.

Palestinian organizers of the weekly clashes had on Thursday urged Gazans to demonstrate Friday “to thank the resistance” for battling Israel.

Since March, Palestinians have been holding the 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.

On Thursday, in the wake of a massive flareup in violence that brought the region to the brink of another war, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians threatened Gazans that Israel’s “patience has run out and we will respond severely” to those who take part in clashes along the border.

In an Arabic-language video, posted to his Facebook page, Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun — known formally as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories — told Palestinians that Israel was adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward border violence.

A ceasefire, which was announced by Hamas on Tuesday evening but not officially confirmed by Israel, appeared to largely be holding as of Thursday night. Nevertheless, the Israeli military kept reinforcements in place and ordered troops to remain on high alert.

During the regular Friday protests the rioters have been burning tires, hurling rocks at troops and detonation of explosives. The clashes have also included the launching of kites and balloons carrying incendiary devices toward Israel, burning thousands of acres of forest and farmland.

Fire and smoke billow following Israeli air strikes targeting Hamas infrastructure in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, near the border with Egypt, on November 12, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

This week’s clashes come just days after Israel engaged in the largest flareup with Hamas and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza since the 2014 war.

Over 460 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel over on Monday and Tuesday, according to the Israel Defense Forces, more than twice the rate at which they were launched during the 2014 conflict.

The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted over 100 of them. Most of the rest landed in open fields, but dozens landed inside Israeli cities and towns, killing one person, injuring dozens and causing significant property damage.

In response, the Israeli military said it targeted approximately 160 sites in the Gaza Strip connected to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups, including four facilities that the army designated as “key strategic assets.”

The fighting ended on Tuesday after a Hamas-announced ceasefire took effect, though this was not officially confirmed by Israel.

The decision to halt attacks on Gaza was criticized by many in Israel and was cited by Avidgor Liberman in his decision Wednesday to resign as defense minister, a move expected to bring early elections for the Knesset.

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