GAZA (Reuters) – Israeli troops issued warning shots on Saturday against Palestinian youth who had gathered on the border between Gaza and Israel, injuring 13 people.
The day after the onset of the deadly violence, tension continued to be one of the greatest Palestinian demonstrations in the area for years.
An Israeli military spokesman said he reviewed the details of the riots on Saturday.
On Friday, at least 1
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared Saturday a national day of mourning, and a general strike was called in the occupied West Bank. Thousands in Gaza marched through the streets at funerals for the dead.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians had arrived Friday on the fenced-in 65-km (40-mile) border where tents were erected for a planned six-week protest calling for refugees and their descendants to return to present-day Israel. The estimate of the Israeli military was 30,000.
Families brought their children to the camps just a few hundred yards from the Israeli security barrier with the Islamist Hamas-led enclave. But hundreds of Palestinian youth ignored the demands of the organizers and the Israeli military to stay away from the border, and violence erupted.
PALESTINIAN BRANDS "CATASTROPHE"
The protest, organized by Hamas and other Palestinian factions, is set to culminate on May 15 with the Palestinians that recall what they "nakba" or "catastrophe" when hundreds of thousands fled or 1948 were expelled from their homes when the State of Israel was founded.
Israel has long excluded any right to return, fearing an influx of Arabs who would wipe out its Jewish majority. It is argued that refugees should be resettled in a future state that the Palestinians seek in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza. The peace talks for this purpose have been frozen since 2014.
Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but continues to maintain strict control over its land and sea borders.
Egypt keeps its border with Gaza largely closed.
Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdainah, said: "The message of the Palestinian people is clear, the Palestinian land will always belong to its rightful owners and the occupation will be removed."
Israeli military spokesman Brigadier General Ronen Manelis Said Hamas use the protests as an excuse to launch attacks on Israel and ignite the area. He said the violence is likely to continue at the border until 15 May.
"We will not allow this to become a ping-pong zone where they commit a terrorist attack, and we respond with purposeful action, and if this continues we will have no choice but within the Gaza Strip to respond, "Manelis told reporters in a conference call. Gaza's Ministry of Health said on Friday that 16 people were killed, but the death toll was increased to 15 on Saturday
coverage by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Maayan Lubell; Arrangement of Angus MacSwan