Gaza remains defiant in the face of violent Israeli crackdown on protesters.
Gaza City – Thousands of Palestinians have protested across the occupied Palestinian territory in a “Day of Rage”, as clashes with Israeli forces have left two Palestinian demonstrators dead and dozens more injured.
Tensions boiled over into violence earlier this month as Israeli incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound – the third holiest site in Islam – gave way to protests and clashes that have consumed much of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
Amid tit-for-tat attacks between Israelis and Palestinians, the ongoing streak of violence has left dead at least 39 Palestinians – including suspected attackers, as well as unarmed protesters and bystanders – and seven Israelis.
In Gaza, thousands assembled in areas along the Israeli border, as Israeli forces responded with tear gas, stun grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition.
Yehya Abdulqader Farhat, 24, was shot and killed during confrontations at the Erez crossing, while at least 11 others were also injured by live fire, according the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health.
Mahmoud Humeida, 22, was fatally shot by Israeli security forces at protests in Shujayea.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, two Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces on Friday. Ehab Hanani, 19, was fatally shot by Israeli soldiers in Beit Furik, a village near Nablus.
Earlier in the day, a Palestinian man was shot and killed after reportedly stabbing an Israeli soldier near Kiryat Arba, a Jewish-only settlement in the southern West Bank.
Last week, seven Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire during protests on the Gaza border, and an eighth man – 37-year-old Shawqi Jabr Obeid – succumbed to his wounds early Friday morning.
According to Lara Aburamadan, a Palestinian journalist documenting clashes, Hamas security forces prevented Palestinians from going to Erez “for their safety”, due to an increase in Israeli troops along the border.
But demonstrators continued on to other areas. “There are about 40 teens protesting, and there are injuries,” she told Al Jazeera.
Protesters in Gaza “want to show Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank not only solidarity, but that they are struggling as best they can, given the differences in political geography between [the occupied Palestinian territories]”, Hani Habib, a political analyst based in the Gaza Strip, told Al Jazeera.
“In Gaza, there are no settlements, just borders and Israeli towers. They can shoot Palestinians from a distance. This changes things.”
Although Hamas officers attempted to prevent them, demonstrators were able to break through Israel’s border fence in Khan Younis and other areas, photojournalist Ezz Zanoun told Al Jazeera, adding that Israeli forces opened fire with live ammunition and tear gas.
The demonstrators are also rallying against Israel’s eight-year siege of Gaza, which has tightened in recent months, along with Egypt’s closure of the Strip’s southern border and flooding of smuggling tunnels.
“We go days without electricity, and we have no medicine,” Abu Oday, a 31-year-old father of eight, told Al Jazeera from his home in Rafah.
“After the Egyptians started flooding the tunnels, our water became even saltier than before. The Israelis and the Egyptians have made it impossible to live here.”
An Israeli army spokesman told Al Jazeera that this past Tuesday, after dozens of Palestinians breached the separation fence and shots were fired at a military official’s jeep, “the decision was made to deploy two more battalions [between 1,000 to 1,600 soldiers] to the Gaza border” in order to control Palestinian demonstrations.
US President Barack Obama commented on the spiralling violence during a press conference in Washington on Friday, saying “it’s important for both Prime Minister Netanyahu … and President Abbas and other people in positions of power, to try to tamp down rhetoric that may feed violence or anger or misunderstanding.
“Over time, the only way that Israel is going to be truly secure, and the only way the Palestinians will be able to meet the aspirations of their people, is if they are two states living side by side in peace and security.”
– Additional reporting by Ezz Zanoun