Palestinian organizers of the weekly demonstrations in the Gaza Strip along the Israeli border said they will hold another protest on Friday – in a key test of this week’s ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militant groups.
Tuesday’s ceasefire ended the heaviest fighting between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers since a 2014 war.
The fighting was fuelled in part by the demonstrations. Since late March, thousands of Gazans have joined the Hamas-led demonstrations in a bid to end a crippling Israeli blockade.
Protesters frequently lob grenades, flaming tires and firebombs toward Israeli troops, who respond with tear gas and live fire. Some 170 Palestinians, many of them unarmed, have been killed by Israeli fire. Israel says it is defending its border against militant attackers.
Hamas had lowered the intensity of the protests in recent weeks as U.N. and Egyptian mediators made progress toward an unofficial agreement with Israel.
But then this week’s fighting erupted after a botched Israeli undercover military operation in Gaza.
Gaza militants fired 460 rockets into Israel, while the Israeli air force struck 160 targets in Gaza. The fighting left a total of 14 Palestinians, including 12 militants, dead. An Israeli officer was killed during the Gaza raid, while a Palestinian labourer who worked in Israel was killed in a rocket attack.
In their announcement, protest organizers in Gaza urged people to demonstrate Friday “to thank the resistance” for battling Israel.
But in statements on Facebook, organizers also urged demonstrators to stay away from the border fence, a sign that Friday’s protest would be restrained.
In another sign of quiet, Hamas announced Thursday that Egyptian mediators had arrived in Gaza to work on promoting a deeper ceasefire arrangement with Israel.
Hamas and its supporters have celebrated the ceasefire as a victory against the powerful Israeli military.
In Israel, the ceasefire has triggered a political crisis. Israel’s defence minister, who favoured a much harsher response, resigned to protest the truce, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could soon be forced to call an early election.
Angry Israelis in rocket-scarred southern communities near Gaza have protested against the ceasefire in recent days. Another demonstration was being held Thursday night in Tel Aviv.
Also on Thursday, Israeli police said that a knife-wielding Palestinian attacker sneaked into a Jerusalem police station and lightly wounded four police officers before he was shot and apprehended.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the knife-wielding attacker climbed over the station’s fence late on Wednesday night and began stabbing officers inside. Other officers then shot the assailant, who was caught and taken to a hospital.