Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated near the Israeli fence in the besieged Gaza Strip, calling on Israel to ease its blockade days after a similar weekend gathering that ended in bloody confrontations with the Israeli army.
The Israeli army, which reinforced its forces ahead of Wednesday’s demonstration, said it used tear gas and live fire to disperse the crowd in southern Gaza. Palestinian medics said at least nine people were wounded.
The Al-Aqsa TV network, run by Hamas, the Palestinian movement that rules Gaza, showed throngs of people approaching the fence, then fleeing when an Israeli military vehicle arrived. Tear gas was seen floating in the wind.
The military said it was using .22 caliber fire, a type of weapon that is intended to be less lethal than more powerful firearms but can be lethal.
Al-Jazeera correspondent Youmna Al-Sayed, who covers the protests in Gaza, said that dozens of tear gas canisters were fired at protesters in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip.
“Today, three Palestinians were wounded by live bullets, and dozens of gas canisters were suffocated,” Al-Sayed said.
Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated on Saturday, which led to violent confrontations.
The Health Ministry said more than 40 Palestinians were injured by Israeli fire during Saturday’s demonstrations, including a 13-year-old who was shot in the head.
The injured, Osama Dewji, 32, died of a bullet wound to the leg, on Wednesday.
Hamas described him as a member of its military wing and described him as a “heroic martyr.”
An Israeli soldier who was critically wounded when a Palestinian shot him in the head through a hole in the wall at close range remained at the hospital on Wednesday.
After the shooting, the Israeli army bombed Hamas weapons sites in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Hamas organized the protests in an attempt to pressure Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza.
Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, a year after its victory in Palestinian elections.
The blockade has devastated Gaza’s economy and driven the unemployment rate to nearly 50%. Israel said the blockade, which severely restricts the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza, is aimed at preventing Hamas from building its military capabilities.
Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and numerous skirmishes since 2007, the most recent of which was an 11-day escalation of violence in May that killed 260 Palestinians and 13 people in Israel.
Hamas accuses Israel of violating the ceasefire that ended the fighting by tightening the siege. In particular, he imposed restrictions on the entry of materials for reconstruction.
Israel has demanded the return of the remains of two soldiers killed in the 2014 war, as well as the return of two Israeli civilians believed to have been held captive by Hamas.
Last week, Israel reached an agreement with Qatar to allow the Gulf state to resume aid payments to thousands of poor families in Gaza.
Under the new system, payments will be delivered by the United Nations directly to families that have been vetted by Israel. In the past, aid was provided in cash directly to Hamas.
Payments are expected to begin in the coming weeks, providing some relief in Gaza.
But tensions remain high. In addition to the demonstrations, Hamas allowed its supporters to launch incendiary balloons across the border, sparking several wildfires in southern Israel. Israel launched a series of air strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza.
Egypt, which plays the role of mediator between Israel and Hamas, is working to broker a long-term truce between the arch-enemies.
This week, Egypt closed its border crossing with Gaza, the main exit point for Gaza residents’ travel abroad, in a show of frustration with Hamas.