1,000 Palestinians Protest Along Israel Border; 14 Reportedly Wounded

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Palestinians shout slogans as they protest along the border fence, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on Wednesday.
Palestinians shout slogans as they protest along the border fence, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on Wednesday.Credit: MAHMUD HAMS / AFP

Around 1,000 Palestinians protested along the Gaza border fence in the Khan Yunis area, with Israeli soldiers using live fire to disperse the crowds. 

According to Palestinian reports, 14 Palestinians were wounded – five were hit by live fire and are in moderate condition, two were injured by rubber-tipped bullets and seven suffered gas inhalation.  

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Members of Hamas tasked with restraining demonstrators when necessary were present at the border, but their numbers were few and a few dozen protesters managed to bypass them and move toward the fence. 

Protesters clashed with Israeli security forces, but did not come close enough to the fence to endanger soldiers. Israel used tear gas to try and control the crowds, as well as aiming .22 caliber bullets, which the military says are not lethal, at protesters' legs if they got close to the fence. 

Last week, Palestinian factions in Gaza resumed protests along the border, claiming that "Israel is shirking all the understandings reached on reconstructing the Strip and easing the blockade" – which were agreed upon after May's hostilities between the two sides.

The factions decided to resume the protests despite an agreement between the United Nations and Qatar on transferring stalled Qatari aid money for poor families in the Gaza Strip.  

The Israeli military said on Tuesday it had beefed up forces near the Gaza Strip ahead of the planned border demonstrations led by Hamas.

Officers and soldiers were instructed to respond "more aggressively" to any attempts to breach the border fence or attack Israeli soldiers, following last week's shooting of Border Police officer Bar’el Hadaria Shmueli, 21, who was hit through a slit in the border fence, and remains in critical condition.

More than 40 Palestinians were wounded in the clashes, including a 13-year-old boy, who is also in critical condition.

The military said it has prepared for various scenarios, including a flare-up of violence, only three months after a round of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Also on Tuesday, Al Arabiya network reported, citing unnamed sources, that Hamas has agreed to stop launching incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip following talks with Egyptian intelligence officials.

On Monday, Egyptian security sources said that Cairo will close the Rafah crossing on its border with Gaza until further notice. According to two Egyptian security sources, the closure was made for security reasons, after clashes broke out during Palestinian protests on the Gaza-Israel border on Saturday.

Rafah is the sole crossing between Egypt and Gaza, where an Israeli-led blockade has placed severe restrictions on the movement of goods and people for years.

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