Israel's military on Saturday defended soldiers shooting at protesters in Gaza, saying that it was ready to react with violence as the demonstrations raised the prospect of a new conflict with the Islamist Hamas movement
At least Fifteen Palestinians have died and more than 1,000 were injured on Friday in clashes with Israeli soldiers, Palestinian authorities said, as tens of thousands of Gazans demonstrated on the Israeli border. Some protesters became violent and fired Israeli soldiers, the Israeli military said.
In the early afternoon of Saturday, the Palestinians began to gather at the border again, but not in the same numbers as the day before. The demonstrators said they were there to peacefully demand the right to return to the homes of today's Israel, which would threaten Israel's Jewish majority, according to Israel.
Israeli officials blamed Gaza rulers Hamas on Friday for demonstrating on Friday using civilians to sow violence. The military said militants used the protest as an excuse to attack the border fence, with at least two Palestinians firing first before Israeli soldiers returned the fire.
"This is only the beginning … Hamas intends to further aggravate the situation" Speaker Peter Lerner said on a call with reporters on Saturday. "We do not seek escalation, but we are prepared."
Violence has aggravated the fear of another protracted conflict between Israel and Hamas that has led to three wars over the last decade. An Israeli blockade is causing a flat line in Gaza's economy, and the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, has cut funding for Hamas.
Israeli snipers fired live ammunition at demonstrators, Mr. Lerner said, but the army was skeptical of Palestinian Authority data that 750 people in Gaza suffered gunshot wounds.
A Palestinian Authority spokesman said she stood by her numbers.
Secretary-General of the United Nations
urged an "independent and transparent investigation" into the bloodshed. Israel's neighbors Jordan and Egypt condemned what they called the excessive use of force by the Israeli military. President of the Palestinian Authority
called for a day of mourning Saturday.
In a statement, Hamas said that Abbas should resume financing the strip after losing his life on Friday. Hamas said on Saturday that five of those killed were members of their organization. A spokesman for the group could not be reached to comment on whether the demonstration increased the likelihood of conflict with Israel.
The organizers of the protest said that the event involved Hamas but was not led by the group
The meetings would last until May 1
The protests show that Palestinian insistence on a so-called right of return remains a difficult issue in any pursuit Peace with Israel should be solved.
More than one million Gaza residents are considered "illegal" refugees, largely from the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, according to the UN Israel has said it will not allow significant Palestinians to return to Israel.
Write to Rory Jones at [email protected]