Two Gazans, including a 13-year-old boy, were seriously injured by Israeli bullets during the march, according to Palestinian health officials.
The IDF said in a statement that soldiers clashed with hundreds of rioters near the border fence in the northern strip. In addition to tear gas, soldiers used Ruger bullets, a smaller form of live fire that is less lethal than standard cartridges under certain circumstances.
“Israel Defense Forces soldiers are prepared and use riot dispersal means, as well as Ruger fire if necessary,” the military said.
In one case, as video footage shared widely on social media showed, a group of young Palestinians could be seen running into a small hole in the concrete wall surrounding the Gaza Strip as an Israeli soldier was using as a firing position and attempted to destroy her weapon by hitting her with a pipe and throwing a stone at her. At one point, some rioters sought to extract the weapon. Another man then rushed to the scene with a pistol and fired several shots through the hole.
Israeli defense officials did not immediately comment on the incident.
In other videos released by Palestinian journalists there throughout the afternoon and early evening, hundreds of Gazans approached the fence. Some Palestinians appeared to try to climb the fence, while others huddled along a concrete fence.
Another angle of the incident on the Gaza border shows a Palestinian apparently shooting a handgun through the hole in the border wall, before the others try to snatch the IDF soldier’s rifle. pic.twitter.com/ko69mHH4QW
– Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) August 21, 2021
Defense Minister Benny Gantz told Channel 13 that Israel “will not accept any harm to our forces. The incidents at the fence are serious and we will respond to them. “
Gaza factions had staged Saturday’s protest in the al-Malika refugee camp near the border with Israel as part of a series of activities aimed at putting pressure on Israel, announcing its plans on Wednesday. The Israel Defense Forces sent reinforcements to the border on Thursday, although they appeared to have insufficiently anticipated the scale of violence expected over the weekend.
“Our mobilizing masses have come to announce that the way of the sword of Jerusalem is renewed,” said senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya, using the name of the terrorist group for the May fighting between Israel and Hamas. Al-Hayya is the group’s deputy leader in Gaza.
The protest marked the first time Gazans had led a daytime march to the Gaza border since December 2019. A series of protests in 2018 and 2019 – some of which saw members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad clash violently with Israeli soldiers – killed hundreds in Gaza.
The protest took place despite a deal on Thursday that would return millions of Qatari grants to the Gaza Strip through the United Nations. The deal was seen as a significant step forward in attempts to strengthen the fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
Palestinians carry a protester injured during clashes with Israeli soldiers along the Gaza border on Saturday, August 21, 2021 (Hassan Islayeh)
A few held slingshots, while others burned tires and rolled them towards the border, setting off clouds of smoke. But most of the protesters appeared to be staying behind, staying a few hundred yards from the barrier separating the enclave from Israel.
Tensions have grown between Israel and Hamas in recent weeks, as negotiations to strengthen the ceasefire appeared to hit a brick wall. On Monday, two rockets were fired at southern Israel for the first time since the May escalation, allegedly by Islamic Jihad.
For months, Israel and Hamas conducted indirect negotiations to lay down the terms of a new status quo. In the aftermath of the fighting in May, Israel maintained increased restrictions on Gaza, severely limiting imports and exports and complicating the reconstruction of the battered enclave.
Israel also decided to block most of the millions in Qatari cash that entered the coastal enclave each month before the war. Before the May escalation, Israel had allowed money to enter Gaza in exchange for calm along its southern border.
During the recent 11-day war, Israeli airstrikes and Palestinian rockets caused at least $ 290 million in damage in the Gaza Strip, international assessors reported in early July.
The Israeli government has also sought to condition any easing of restrictions on the progress of talks to achieve a prisoner swap with Hamas. The terrorist group currently detains two Israeli civilians, as well as the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.
However, it has slowly eased restrictions on the Strip in recent times, despite an apparent lack of progress on this front, at the behest of international bodies.
Hamas hopes to trade the Israelis it holds for thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The terrorist group has repeatedly rejected Israel’s attempt to link the issue of the prisoner exchange to the reconstruction of Gaza following the recent escalation.
The first significant progress in the ceasefire talks came on Thursday evening, when the UN, Israel and Qatar announced a framework to return some Qatari money to Gaza. According to the agreement, Qatari money will pass through the UN before reaching the banks of the Gaza Strip.
Qatari projects in the past funded fuel for Gaza’s only power plant and hospitals to shore up the enclave’s damaged health system. They also brought hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to 100,000 poor Gaza families and Hamas officials.
But Thursday’s deal will only provide wages for poor families in Gaza, not for Hamas employees in the enclave. And Israel and Hamas have yet to publicly reach an agreement to ease restrictions on the enclave and allow Gazans to rebuild completely.