Israeli forces shot and killed three Palestinians, including a teenager, in the Gaza Strip during the latest of weekly protests organized by Hamas along the border with Israel on Friday, Palestinian health officials said.
The protests, dubbed by organizers the “March of Return” demonstrations, have been staged regularly every Friday since late March. Following a spike in violence last month, a ceasefire agreement has prompted Palestinian demonstrators to scale back the violence at the weekly demonstrations, largely keeping away from the border.
Some 8,000 Palestinians gathered near the border fence on Friday, the Israeli military said. Most kept their distance while some burned tires and tried to throw an explosive device into Israel, though it did not land across the border, according to the military.
A military spokeswoman said troops responded with “riot dispersal means” and fired in accordance with Israeli protocol.
Gaza’s Health Ministry said 16-year-old Mohammad Jahjouh was fatally shot in the neck while 25 others, including a local journalist, were wounded by Israeli gunfire.
It later said two men, aged 28 and 40, died of injuries sustained at the protests in two separate locations along the security fence earlier in the day.
Following the clashes, Hamas and the smaller armed factions active in Gaza issued a joint announcement Saturday, declaring that “the Palestinian factions plan to meet to devise a joint plan on how to retaliate for the crimes of the Zionist occupation against the March of Return protesters.”
The IDF is taking the Palestinian factions’ threat of a “harsh response” seriously, but has not deployed additional forces in the area at this time. The military has, however, raised its alert level and shored up defenses along the border.
Meanwhile, a delegation of senior Hamas officials headed by Mahmoud al-Zahar visited Tehran over the weekend.
On Saturday, al-Zahar met with Iran’s Speaker of the Parliament Ali Larijani, thanking him for Iran’s support of the Palestinians in Gaza and for helping thwart earlier this month a U.S. attempt to secure a U.N. condemnation of Hamas rockets attacks against Israel.
The Hamas delegation also extended an official invitation to Larijani to visit the Gaza Strip.
Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Nakhala also visited Tehran this weekend and met with senior Iranian government officials, expressing appreciation to them for their support of Gazans.
Meanwhile, Hamas’s public-relations department reported that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was slated to visit Russia this coming weekend at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.