18 Palestinians Wounded by Israeli Live Fire in Border Protests, Gaza Health Ministry Says

Five wounded by rubber bullets and three of the wounded in serious condition, ministry says ■ Slogan for next week's protest to be 'the resistance forces are uniting the Palestinian people'

Protests at the Gaza border fence on November 16, 2018.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Forty people were wounded in a protests along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, including 18 by live fire and five by rubber bullets, Gaza's Health Ministry reported Friday afternoon. 

Of those injured, three are considered to be in serious condition, the ministry said. 

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Protesters started backing away from the border between Israel and the coastal enclave at around 5 P.M. 

The organizing committee for the weekly protests called for a mass turnout this week on Friday, this time under the slogan “normalization with Israel is a crime and treason.” It said the slogan for next week's protest will be "the resistance forces are uniting the Palestinian people."

Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif Qanou said the Arab countries that are working for normalizing their relations with Israel are “sticking a knife in the back of the Palestinian people and harming their national rights.” The protests on Friday were intended to continue the “popular” and nonviolent struggle to “break the blockade on Gaza completely,” he added.

On Thursday, an Egyptian intelligence delegation arrived in Gaza to meet with senior Hamas officials, including Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, to continue negotiations toward a long-term cease-fire.

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The weekly protests decreased in violence two weeks ago, after the Palestinian factions agreed to tone down aggression in the riots along the border fence and the launching of incendiary kites and balloons.

A spokesman for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Daoud Shihab, said the protests would continue in a different format, but did not provide any further details. It is thought he is referring to agreements with Egypt calling on Palestinians to reduce their level of violence during the protests.

At a conference held in preparation for the protests at the beginning of the month, the factions – Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and others – agreed to reduce the level of friction with Israel because of internal Palestinian reconciliation talks promoted by Egypt. The decision was also reached in part in response to the Israeli decision to expand the fishing area along the Gaza coast and allow cash from Qatar to enter Gaza and pay the salaries of Hamas government officials.