Clashes took place Friday February 1st between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops, 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 ten months. In the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority holds limited sway, the protest was sparked by the killing of a Palestinian, at Al-Mughayyir village last Saturday January 26th, which the Palestinians blamed on the settlers.
A spokesperson for the Health Ministry, Ashraf Al-Kidra, said 32 Palestinians were wounded by gunfire on Friday February 1st at several sections along the fence.
Meanwhile, mediators from Egypt and the United Nations, on Friday February 1st, worried that the border violence could evolve into a full blown 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 further.
Moreover, Hamas on Friday accused Israel of not honouring an unofficial truce to gradually ease the blockade, and vowed to escalate the protests, which have witnessed the deaths of nearly 190 Palestinians, since the spring when they began.
In the village of Al-Mughayyir, hundreds of demonstrators waving Palestinian flags rallied, hurling stones at Israeli forces and burning tires. On the other hand, 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.
Meanwhile, the circumstances that led to the death of Hamdi Naasan, 38, at Al-Mughayyir 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, and the Israeli police and military have launched investigations.