GAZA CITY: Israeli fire killed six Palestinians and wounded scores during clashes on Friday near Gaza’s border, the first unrest-related deaths there after days of violence in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, medics said.
The clashes came as Hamas’s chief in Gaza called violence that has hit the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem an intifada, or uprising, and urged further unrest.
The Gaza Strip had been mainly calm as unrest has shaken annexed east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank in recent days.
But clashes broke out on Friday east of Gaza City and Khan Yunis along the border with the Jewish state, with Israeli forces opening fire and killing six Palestinians and wounding 21, according to medics.
Ahmed al-Hirbawi, Shadi Dawla, Abed al-Wahidi and Nabil Sharaf, all aged 20, were killed when soldiers responded after youths threw stones at them on the Israel side of their common border east of Khan Yunis, Gaza medics said.
Mohammed al-Raqab, 15, and Adnan Abu Alian, 20, were killed in similar clashes east of Gaza City.
Medics said another 80 Palestinians were wounded, 10 of them seriously.
An army spokeswoman said about 200 Palestinians had approached the fence while hurling rocks and rolling burning tyres toward security forces.
“Forces on the site responded with fire toward the main instigators to prevent their progress and disperse the riot,” claimed the army spokeswoman.
The spokeswoman confirmed “five hits” without elaborating.
The clashes came as Hamas’s chief in Gaza called the spreading violence an intifada, or uprising, and urged further unrest.
In a sermon at a mosque in Gaza City, Ismail Haniyeh said “we are calling for the strengthening and increasing of the intifada. 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.”
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.
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 during the summer of 2014 left more than 2,200 people dead and 100,000 homeless.
Friday’s stabbings included one by a 17-year-old Jew in the southern Israeli city of Dimona that lightly or moderately wounded two Palestinians and two Arab Israelis.
The teen was arrested and told police he acted because “all Arabs are terrorists.“
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly condemned the attack by the Jewish youth, a sign of concerns it could trigger further violence.
Attacks also continued against Israelis and Jews, with a Palestinian stabbing and lightly wounding a policeman near a West Bank settlement before being shot dead by the victim.
A Jewish 16-year-old was slightly hurt in a stabbing in Jerusalem by an 18-year-old Palestinian suspect, who was arrested.
And a woman was shot and wounded when she tried to stab a security guard at a bus station in the northern Israeli town of Afula, police said.
There have been 13 stabbing attacks since Saturday, including the revenge assault. Five of the alleged attackers have been killed.
Friday’s escalation came as Israeli security forces sought to prevent the further spread of Palestinian unrest, with Netanyahu saying Thursday night the country faced a mostly unorganised “wave of terror”.
He promised action against those inciting violence but warned there was no “magic solution”.
Abbas has spoken out against violence and in favour of “peaceful, popular resistance,” but many youths are frustrated with his leadership as well as Israel’s government.
Jerusalem’s Old City was tense on Friday as Palestinians filed toward the sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound for the Friday congregation.
Scuffles broke out as a group of about 50 Jews wearing skullcaps, or draped in the Israeli flag, walked through the mainly Muslim eastern portion of the Old City toward the Western Wall.
Jews shouted “long live the Israeli people” and some of the women made obscene gestures at Muslims, who responded with shouts of “Allahu Akbar”.
Clashes between police and Palestinian youths have repeatedly erupted at the Al-Aqsa compound in recent weeks, and police were prohibiting men under 45 from entering the site on Friday.
Such measures are often imposed when tensions flare.