Palestinians say 7 wounded in riots along Gaza border

Gazans throw rocks and explosives at Israeli troops, who respond with teargas and some live fire at weekly protests

A Palestinian uses a slingshot to hurl objects across the border fence with Israel at Israeli forces during clashes along the fence east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza strip on June 21, 2019. (Photo by Said KHATIB / AFP)
A Palestinian uses a slingshot to hurl objects across the border fence with Israel at Israeli forces during clashes along the fence east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza strip on June 21, 2019. (Photo by Said KHATIB / AFP)

Several thousand Palestinians took part Friday in the weekly protests along the Gaza Strip border, with hundreds rioting, throwing explosive devices and stones at Israeli troops, who responded with tear gas and occasional live fire.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said that 7 people were wounded.

IDF soldiers also identified an attempt to breach the border fence, the Ynet news site reported

The clashes came a day after the leader of the Hamas terror group said Israel was ignoring the terms of an unofficial ceasefire agreement in the Gaza Strip.

In a rare briefing to foreign reporters in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh said the understandings, brokered by Egypt, Qatar and the UN, were now “in the danger zone.”

“Israel didn’t provide freedom of movement in the border crossings, [it] uses the fishing zone issue for extortion, delays electricity and construction projects and severely restricts the entry of funds,” Haniyeh was quoted as saying.

He insisted Israel has shown “no respect” for the terms and the two million residents of Gaza, who “have not felt” any improvement to their living conditions.

A picture taken in Gaza City on May 5, 2019, shows rockets being fired toward Israel. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Haniyeh’s comments on the Gaza agreement, however, came a day after a Hamas spokesman said Israel was abiding by the terms of the deal. Israel had allowed a Qatari delegation into the territory with $15 million in cash meant to aid impoverished families and support infrastructure projects.

Spokesman Hazem Qassim said Wednesday in a statement that third-party mediators had assured the Hamas group that Israel would be implementing a “broader package” of concessions in the coming days, including allowing financial aid into Gaza, addressing the electricity and water crises in the Strip, establishing employment programs and “facilitating the movement of Palestinians through border crossings.”

Qassim’s assurance that Israel was fulfilling its purported obligations under the deal, whose exact stipulations are not clear, came after a report Wednesday in the Lebanese al-Akhbar newspaper, which claimed Jerusalem had prevented the transfer of Qatari funds to approximately 5,000 needy families in Gaza.

Qatar’s envoy to Gaza, Mohammed Al-Emadi, denied the reports, saying the delay in transferring the funds to the families was due to a Qatari decision to put that money toward development projects instead of direct financial aid.

Israel does not officially acknowledge a ceasefire agreement with Hamas and the other terror groups in the Strip, which was brokered in early May following an intense two days of fighting.

Under the unofficial deal, Hamas reportedly agreed to halt violent incidents along the border fence, maintaining a buffer zone 300 meters from the border, end the launching of incendiary balloons at Israeli communities and nighttime clashes between Gazans and security forces, and stop the flotillas trying to break through the naval blockade of the Strip.

In return, Israel agreed to allow Qatar to send money into Gaza, expand the fishing zone, enable United Nations cash-for-work programs, allow medicine and other humanitarian aid into the Strip, and open negotiations on matters relating to electricity, crossings and healthcare.

Hamas has largely prevented violence during border protests, turning back and arresting rioters who get too close to the security fence, and has stopped the flotillas.

However, the flow of balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices has not stopped in the past month and a half, and is widely seen by Israeli analysts as a tool with which the group seeks to exert pressure on Israel.

Illustrative: Palestinians prepare balloon-borne incendiary devices to launch at Israel, at the Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on May 31, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

Last week, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired two rockets at southern Israel. One was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system as it was heading toward the Eshkol region of southern Israel; the second rocket struck a religious school in the southern town of Sderot, causing damage to the building but no injuries.

In response, the Israeli military conducted a series of airstrikes against Hamas targets in the Strip.

Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas violently seized control of the coastal Palestinian enclave in 2007 from the Palestinian Authority.

Israel has said the restrictions are necessary to prevent the smuggling of weapons and war materiel.

Since March 2018, Hamas has led regular mass protests along the Israel-Gaza border, with Israel accusing the terror group of using the often violent demonstrations as cover to attack troops and the security fence.

The two sides have fought three wars over the past decade. An Islamist terror group, Hamas seeks to destroy Israel.

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