The Israeli army has launched airstrikes on Gaza following clashes between its soldiers and Palestinian protesters during a demonstration to commemorate the burning of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque 52 years ago In a statement late Saturday, the Israeli military said it targeted four weapons manufacturing and storage sites in Gaza that belong to Hamas, the group that rules the besieged Palestinian enclave.
There were no immediate reports of casualties The raids came hours after Israeli soldiers opened fire on a crowd of young Palestinians protesting at the fence separating Gaza and Israel The Palestinian Health Ministry said dozens of people were injured, including a 13-year-old Palestinian boy who was shot in the head.
“Forty-one civilians were injured with various injuries,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Israeli army called the protesters “rioters” and said some had tried to scale the border fence and threw “explosive devices” at their soldiers The army said it “responded with means of dispersal of riots, including when necessary with live fire” and added that an Israeli soldier was “seriously injured by live fire emanating from Gaza.”
At least 10 of the injured Palestinians were children and two were in critical condition Palestinian factions had urged a peaceful commemoration prior to the rally, while “Hamas claimed the excessive force of the Israeli occupying forces against unarmed civilians as common to what Israel is used to.”
The group also “said the Palestinians will continue to send messages that they will not allow Israeli forces to continue to besiege the Gaza Strip and its people,” she added Late on Saturday, Hamas and other groups in Gaza issued a joint statement in which they “saluted the heroic youth” who clashed with Israeli forces The violence was one of the worst since Israel’s deadly attack on the Gaza Strip in May.
For 11 days that month, Israel struck Gaza with airstrikes in response to rocket fire from the enclave. Hamas and other groups said they took action after Israeli forces violently stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque complex several times, including on the holiest night of Ramadan At least 260 Palestinians, including 67 children, and 13 Israelis were killed in the fighting.
The conflict ended with a ceasefire on May 21, but reconstruction in Gaza has stalled, in part due to a crippling blockade that Israel has maintained on the enclave since Hamas took power in 2007 The new Israeli government, led by Naftali Bennett, has blocked aid from Qatar and called for a mechanism to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from the cash. It has also blocked the importation of key reconstruction materials while demanding that Hamas first return the remains of two soldiers killed in a 2014 war and two Israeli civilians believed to be alive.
On Thursday, however, Israel announced an agreement with Qatar to resume aid payments to thousands of families in the Gaza Strip Under the new agreement, the UN will transfer the funds directly to families in Gaza, while Israel will monitor the list of recipients. Payments are expected to begin in the next few weeks.