Gaza City, Gaza Strip.- Black smoke from burning tires mixed with streaks of tear gas fired by Israeli forces Friday as several thousand Palestinians staged a sixth weekly protest on the Gaza-Israel border. At least 70 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli fire, the lowest casualty toll since the protests began.
Hundreds of demonstrators broke into the Gaza side of a cargo crossing with Israel, damaging pipelines that carry fuel and gas into Gaza, the Israeli military said. Photos on social media showed large flames near the Kerem Shalom crossing, near where the borders of Gaza, Israel and Egypt converge.
Palestinian officials said protesters smashed some equipment near the crossing but were unaware of any damage to pipelines. The Israeli military called the incident a “cynical act of terror” that harms Gaza civilians.
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Elsewhere, witnesses said small Israeli drones faced off against flaming kites that were flown by Palestinians over the border fence in recent weeks to set ablaze dry wheat fields on the Israeli side. The witnesses said two kites with burning rags were brought down by the drones, while two other drones crashed after being hit by stones.
The protests are part of a weekly campaign organized by Gaza’s Hamas rulers. The marches each Friday are aimed, in part, at breaking a decade-old blockade of the territory that imposed by Israel and Egypt after the Islamic militant group took control there in 2007.
The Islamic militant group Hamas has said the protests would culminate in a mass march on May 15, with some officials suggesting a possible border breach at the time and others saying the protests might continue beyond that date.
Israel has warned that it will prevent such a breach at any cost. May 15 is the day Palestinians commemorate their mass uprooting in the 1948 war over Israel’s creation.