Thousands of Palestinians held marches on the Gaza border, culminating two months of weekly Friday protests aimed at breaking an Israeli and Egyptian blockade. This demonstration came on the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and coincided with Jerusalem Day, an annual anti-Israel protest in Iran.
As demonstrators approached the border, they were confronted by Israeli troops. Soldiers fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds, and snipers used live ammunition to prevent a breach of the border fence.
The international community has accused Israel of an excessive use of force during the protests, which left more than 115 Palestinians dead since the end of March. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel has the right to defend its borders against acts of violence by a terrorist organization — a reference to the Islamic militant group Hamas that rules Gaza.
"They organize this, Hamas. They pay for some civilians to come and they pretend that it's a peaceful protest. But this is not a peaceful protest. They come in with pipe bombs, they come in with weapons, come in with explosives," Netanyahu said.
Despite the high Palestinian death toll, Hamas is declaring victory.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said martyrdom is the price Palestinians must pay to break the blockade and confront the Israeli occupation.
Once again, the Palestinians employed a primitive but effective new weapon that has caused heavy damage in Israel: They flew flaming kites across the border to burn Israeli crops and nature preserves.