Gaza City, Palestinian Territories: A week of violence between Israelis and Palestinians spread to the Gaza Strip Saturday, with Israeli troops killing six in clashes on the border and Islamist movement Hamas calling for more unrest.
A fresh wave of stabbings also hit Israel and the West Bank, including a revenge attack by a Jewish suspect that wounded two Palestinians and two Arab Israelis.
The Gaza Strip had been mainly calm as unrest has shaken annexed east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank in recent days.
But a rocket fired from the Palestinian enclave hit southern Israel early Saturday, causing no damages or injuries, just hours after clashes broke out east of Gaza City and Khan Yunis along the border with the Jewish state.
The Israeli army said there had been on Friday “multiple violent attempts to storm the border fence” and “a thousand rioters infiltrated the buffer zone,” throwing a “grenade, rocks and rolled burning tyres” at the soldiers.”
“After firing warning shots, forces on site responded with fire towards main instigators in order to prevent their advance and disperse the riot,” a statement from the army read.
Six Palestinians were killed, including a 15-year-old, and 80 wounded, according to medics.
It was the deadliest clash in Gaza since the summer 2014 war with Israel.
Palestine Liberation Organisation secretary general Saeb Erakat accused Netanyahu and his government of “committing a new massacre of Palestinians” in Gaza.
The clashes came as Hamas’s chief in Gaza called the spreading violence an intifada, or uprising, and urged further unrest.
In a sermon for weekly Muslim prayers at a mosque in Gaza City, Ismail Haniya said “we are calling for the strengthening and increasing of the intifada”.
– Gaza ‘ready for confrontation’ –
“It is the only path that will lead to liberation,” he said. “Gaza will fulfil its role in the Jerusalem intifada and it is more than ready for confrontation.”
In a number of Arab towns in Israel’s north, masked youths blocked roads with burning tyres and hurled fire bombs and stones at police, who arrested eight suspects altogether.
Stabbing attacks in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Israel itself along with rioting have raised fears of a third Palestinian intifada, following a first that began in 1987 and a second in 2000.
Those two conflicts cost the lives of some 5,000 Palestinians and around 1,100 Israelis.
Hamas rules Gaza, squeezed between Egypt and Israel and separated from the West Bank. It remains deeply divided from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party.
The enclave has been hit by three wars with Israel since 2008. A 50-day conflict between Palestinian militants in Gaza and Israel in the summer of 2014 left more than 2,200 people in the territory dead and 100,000 homeless.