Rocket fired toward Israel following Gaza border clashes
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Rocket fired toward Israel following Gaza border clashes

Warning sirens blare in south as projectile said to land in open field; no reports of injuries or damage

Illustrative: Smoke rises from a fallen rocket fired from Gaza in a field in southern Israel near the border with Gaza on November 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Illustrative: Smoke rises from a fallen rocket fired from Gaza in a field in southern Israel near the border with Gaza on November 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A projectile was fired from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel on Friday evening, according to the army, after thousands of Palestinians took part in violent protests along the border.

The launch set off rocket warning sirens in the Eshkol Regional Council, where Hebrew media reports said it fell in an open field.

There were no reports of injuries or damage.

The incident came after thousands of Palestinians rioted along the Gaza border and two men who the IDF said were carrying a knife and a hand grenade were arrested after crossing into Israel from the northern strip.

The two infiltrators who broke through the security fence evaded capture for approximately half an hour, forcing the Israel Defense Forces to bring additional troops to the area and local communities to go on high alert and call up their volunteer security forces.

Palestinians climb the border fence with Israel during clashes near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on March 8, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

During the border clashes, Palestinians threw rocks and improvised explosives at Israeli soldiers on the other side of the security fence. The Israeli troops responded to the estimated 8,000 with tear gas and, in some cases, live fire, the military said.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry reported that at one person was killed and at least 48 Palestinians had been injured by Israeli fire.

Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said 23-year-old Tamer Arafat succumbed to his wounds after being shot in the head.

The violence came amid a period of heightened tensions in the region of the coastal enclave as Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group exchanged fire as well as verbal threats.

Friday’s clashes were part of what Palestinians call the “March of Return,” a series of regular demonstrations along the security fence that have been held since March 30, 2018.

Israel says the demonstrations are orchestrated by Hamas, which vocally supports them, sending free buses to the border and providing food and internet to participants — as well as money for those injured in them — in order to provide a cover for the organization’s nefarious activities along the security fence, including infiltration attempts, the planting of explosives and attacks on Israeli soldiers.

Their organizers have said the protests aim to achieve the “return” of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands that are now part of Israel, and pressure the Jewish state to lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave.

Israeli officials hold that the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants would destroy Israel’s Jewish character. They also maintain that the restrictions on movement are in place to prevent Hamas and other terrorist groups from smuggling weapons into the Strip.

A Palestinian uses a slingshot to fling back a tear gas canister thrown by Israeli forces during clashes at the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on March 8, 2019. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Recent weeks have seen an uptick in violence along the border, with Palestinians launching balloon-borne explosive devices into Israel, causing damage and threatening the safety of Israelis living nearby.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hamas that Israel would respond harshly to any further violence emanating from the Gaza Strip.

AFP contributed to this report.

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