Around 12,000 Palestinians participated in weekly demonstrations along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel Friday evening. The army said rioters burned tires and hurled rocks at Israeli soldiers, who responded according to open-fire regulations.
In several incidents, grenades and bombs were hurled at the troops. Shrapnel from one pipe bomb lightly injured an IDF officer who was treated at the scene. In response the military said an aircraft and a tank struck two Hamas posts.
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said three people were killed by IDF fire during the rallies, including a 14-year-old boy shot east of Jabaliya in northern Gaza. The second man was said to have been shot in the Khan Younis area in central Gaza, and the third was hit east of Bureij in central Gaza.
The ministry said at least 30 people were injured, of which 11 were hit by live fire.
Two fires also broke out in Israeli communities near the border due to incendiary balloons. Firefighters managed to gain control of the blazes.
Earlier in the day the Israeli military found and destroyed an improvised explosive device along the southern Gaza border, the second such case in two days. In addition, a cluster of balloons carrying an unlit explosive detonator, which was apparently launched from Gaza, landed in a playground in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Gat.
The army said the improvised explosive device had been hidden underneath a pile of dirt next to the security fence, east of Khan Younis. It had a receiver attached to it, allowing the device to be set off remotely, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
The device was detonated by IDF troops in a controlled blast, the army said.
This was the second such explosive device planted along the southern Gaza security fence and discovered by the IDF this week.
The military accused the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group of being behind the attempted attack.
“Hamas continues to try to harm defensive infrastructure and security forces in the security fence area, while using residents of the Gaza Strip as human shields and as cover for terrorist activities,” the army said in a statement.
In Kiryat Gat, police officers were called to the playground on Friday morning where the airborne explosive device was located shortly before 7 a.m.
“Police forces, including a police sapper, were called to the scene and took care of the suspicious object and removed all danger,” the police said.
On Thursday, the Israeli military also detonated a large bomb that had been placed along the Gaza security fence by Palestinians during a recent riot, the army said.
The IED, which was placed inside a blue jerry can, was found earlier this week by the IDF next to the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip.
According to the IDF, the bomb was placed along the fence during a riot earlier in the week.
“The planting of the explosive device by the terrorist cell under the cover of a violent demonstration is further evidence that the Hamas terror group is working to maintain the conflict in the fence area,” the army said at the time.
On Monday, several thousand Palestinians rioted along the Gaza security fence, burning tires and throwing rocks at IDF troops on the other side, the army said.
In response, Israeli troops fired tear gas canisters and, in some cases, live gunshots at the Palestinian rioters, according to the IDF.
No significant injuries were reported on either side.
A surge of violence in Gaza began in March with a series of protests along the border that were dubbed the “March of Return.” The clashes, which Israel says are being orchestrated by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, have included regular rock and Molotov cocktail attacks on troops, as well as shooting and IED attacks aimed at IDF soldiers and attempts to breach the border fence.
Since the protests began, at least 129 Palestinians have been killed in clashes, according to a tally from The Associated Press. Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, has acknowledged that dozens of those killed were its members. Others have been identified as members of the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, the second-largest terrorist organization in the Strip. During that time, a Gaza sniper killed an Israeli soldier.
During the demonstrations, protesters have also launched incendiary kites and balloons into Israel, sparking fires that have destroyed forests, burned crops and killed livestock. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.