At least six Palestinians from the Gaza Strip were killed and 19 hurt when IDF soldiers opened fire on a crowd of protesters from Hamas and Islamic Jihad as they approached the border fence with Israel on Friday, Gaza medics said.
One of those killed was a 15-year-old boy, officials in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said.
The incident began with some 200 Palestinians approaching the security fence in northern Gaza, closest to Kibbutz Nahal Oz.
“They began throwing stones and rolling burning tires at Israeli forces,” an Israeli army spokesperson said. She told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an that IDF forces responded with live fire towards the “main instigators,” and confirmed five direct hits.
The troops, who remained on the Israeli side of the border, opened fire at the protesters, who were approximately 150 feet (50 meters) away, in order to break up the protest and push them from the fence, she said.
אחמד Herbawi וחוסאם שאדי נהרגו בעימותים עם צהלמזרחית לשכונת סג'עיה( 2 הרוגים לפחות)כרגע הם מדווחים על 20 פצועים.#עזה
The protesters were from Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and other groups in the Strip, Arabic news outlets reported.
The Health Ministry in Gaza named the six fatalities, and that said Shadi Hussam Dawla, Ahmad al-Harbawi and Abed al-Wahidi, all aged 20, were killed east of the Shejaiye neighborhood of Gaza City, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported. It said Muhammad al-Raqeb, 15, Adnan Moussa Abu Elayyan, 22, and Ziad Nabil Sharaf, 20, were killed near the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis.
The incident comes after Hamas’s chief in Gaza called Friday for further violence against Israel.
“Gaza will fulfill its role in the Jerusalem intifada and it is more than ready for confrontation,” Ismail Haniyeh said during a sermon for weekly Muslim prayers at a mosque in Gaza City.
“We are calling for the strengthening and increasing of the intifada… It is the only path that will lead to liberation,” he said.
Before Friday, during the days of unrest in Israel and the West Bank, Gaza had remained relatively quiet. However, Hamas had urged Gazans to join a Hamas-sponsored mass protest after Friday prayers in solidarity with the struggle by West Bank Palestinians against Israel and to “defend al-Aqsa.”
Hamas leaders have praised the perpetrators of terror attacks in recent days, and increasingly urged West Bank Palestinians to carry out attacks.
On Thursday, Hamas sent its supporters enrolled at Ramallah’s Birzeit University to participate in a demonstration at the IDF’s West Bank headquarters.
Analysts believe the Hamas goal is to ignite the West Bank in an intifada which will ultimately lead to the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority.
AFP and Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.