JERUSALEM (AP) – Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops skirmished on Friday as hundreds demonstrated against violence by Jewish settlers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and thousands more against a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
In Gaza, mass demonstrations along the perimeter fence with Israel have been a weekly routine over the past 10 months.
In the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority (PA) holds limited sway, the protest was sparked by the killing of a Palestinian at al-Mughayyir village last Saturday, which the Palestinians blamed on the settlers.
Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra said 32 Palestinians were wounded by gunfire at several sections along the fence on Friday.
Earlier in the day, mediators from Egypt and the United Nations (UN), worried that the border violence could evolve into an all-out conflict between Hamas and Israel, met with leaders of the militant group.
Ismail Haniyeh, the militant group’s chief, described the meeting as “unprecedented” but did not elaborate.
Hamas on Friday accused Israel of not honouring an unofficial truce agreement to gradually ease the blockade and vowed to escalate the protests, which have seen the death of nearly 190 Palestinians since they were launched in the spring.
In the village of al-Mughayyir, hundreds of demonstrators waving Palestinian flags rallied, hurling stones at Israeli forces and burning tyres.
The Israeli army said it responded with “riot dispersal means,” referring to tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that seven Palestinians were injured.
The circumstances that led to the death of Hamdi Naasan, 38, last Saturday remain in dispute, with Palestinians saying that Israeli settlers shot him and settlers contending they fired in the air to chase away attackers after a Jewish man was stabbed. The Israeli police and military have launched investigations.