About 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since the protests started in late March, according to Palestinian Health Ministry figures. One Israeli soldier has been killed.
At least 130 people were hit by Israeli gunfire on Friday as thousands of Palestinians protested near Gaza’s border with Israel, the health ministry in the enclave said.
Following calls to avoid an escalation in violence, the demonstrators largely kept their distance from the fortified frontier fence. This follows the deaths last Friday of seven Palestinians in the now weekly protests.
Since March, Palestinians have marched to the border fence every Friday and occasionally breached it. Israeli forces have killed more than 200 Palestinians in the confrontations. One Israeli soldier has died.
According to an Israeli military spokeswoman, about 10,000 demonstrators took part in Friday’s protest.
An Israeli army spokesman said that most of the protesters stayed back from the fence, but some approached and some threw explosive devices and hand grenades at soldiers while setting tyres on fire.
“The soldiers who were there responded with riot dispersal means, along with gunfire in accordance with the rules of engagement,” he said.
Some protesters launched kites and balloons equipped with crude incendiary devices across the border into southern Israel. The Israeli army said one of its aircraft targeted a group of men launching balloons.
An AFP correspondent said Hamas security officials in at least one location were seen discouraging protesters from nearing the fence.
Ahead of Friday’s confrontation, an Egyptian security delegation visited the Gaza Strip on Thursday and encouraged Hamas leader Ismail Haniya to calm the protests, an Egyptian official said.
UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov also urged all sides “to exercise restraint, to proceed in a peaceful manner, and to avoid escalation.”
On Wednesday, two rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave at Israel, with one damaging a house in the southern city of Beersheba. Israel launched air strikes in retaliation, killing one person.
This week’s protest was relatively small. Some of the previous gatherings drew as many as 30,000 demonstrators, a sign that tensions that have built up in the past few days may have eased somewhat.