Gaza Protest Turnout Lowest Ever as Dozens Demonstrate on the Border

The Israeli army carried out warning shots at the demonstrators, some of whom launched incendiary kites, as the World Cup got underway with teams that Gazans support, including Egypt and Iran

Gazans during the Eid al-Fitr prayers at the Israel-Gaza border, June 15, 2018.
Khalil Hamra/AP

Dozens of Palestinian demonstrators arrived on Friday to the Israel-Gaza border in what was the lowest protest turnout since the start of the border protests on March 30. Even as tens of thousands of Palestinians attended morning prayers to mark the Id al-Fitr holiday, which commemorates the end of the month-long Ramadan fast, the worshipers dispersed in the afternoon and few stayed to demonstrate. 

The Israeli military fired warning shots at Palestinians attempting to ignite incendiary balloons in southern Gaza, also firing at their vehicle. There were several reported wounded from tear gas inhalation near the border fence in Khan Younis.

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As organizers planned to launch thousands of kites and balloon carrying flammable materials at Israel, the World Cup was being broadcast live from Russia.

Egypt's match against Uruguay took place at 3 P.M., which was followed by the match between Morocco and Iran at 6 P.M. These are teams embraced by many Muslim countries, as well as the Palestinian Authority and Gaza Strip. 

Israel's military doesn't know the reason for the quiet protest Friday, and it's possible that Id al-Fitr kept more people home. But even for the holidays, there were few demonstrators in attendance.

The IDF said earlier it attacked infrastructure on Thursday near to where a terrorist cell had prepared incendiary balloons. The military said it views the use of explosive and incendiary kites and balloons seriously and will act to prevent their use.

Last week Haaretz reported that Israeli military officials believe they would no longer be able to show restraint in the face of large numbers of incendiary kites and balloons launched from inside the Gaza Strip, which have caused extensive damage to Israeli agricultural fields and forests near the border.

Israel has previously fired on Palestinians launching balloons from Gaza carrying explosive and incendiary devices. Firebombs tied to kites and balloons have caused major brushfires in fields and woods. Some have also carried explosive devices with the potential to harm civilians, troops and the firefighters called to extinguish the fires.

The organizers of the protests over the past few months along the border fence with Israel have called to hold a mass prayer service for the holiday on Friday morning in the encampments along the border.