At least 40 injured in clashes between Palestinians, Israeli soldiers in eastern Gaza

At least 40 Palestinians were injured on Friday afternoon during clashes between hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli soldiers in eastern Gaza Strip, close to the border with Israel, medics said.

Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesman of the health ministry in Gaza, told reporters that 40 Palestinians were injured, including 22 who were shot and wounded by the gunfire of Israeli soldiers, who are stationed on the border with eastern Gaza Strip.

The clashes broke out on Friday after hundreds of Palestinians joined the weekly anti-Israel protests and rallies, better known as the Great March of Return and Breaking the Israeli Siege, which began in late March last year.

The highest commission of the marches of return had earlier called on the Gaza Strip’s populations to join the 65th week of marches to express rejection to the U.S. peace plan, better known as The Deal of the Century.

Eyewitnesses in eastern Gaza said that the demonstrators waved Palestinian flags, chanted slogans against Israel and the United States and threw stones at the soldiers stationed on the border with Israel.

However, Israeli media reported that around 5,000 Palestinian demonstrators gathered near the fence of the border, released dozens of arson balloons and threw handmade grenades on the soldiers stationed at the borderline area.

Local radio stations reported that Israeli soldiers fired dozens of tear gas canisters, metal-coated rubber bullets and live gunshots at the demonstrators, who approached the fence of the border with Israel.

The rallies and protests went on although Israel earlier on Friday announced that it has taken a series of measures to ease the blockade that Israel has been imposing on the Gaza Strip since 2007, according to Israel Radio.

The radio reported that Israel lifted the ban on the shipment of 18 different kinds of raw-materials that Israel said it had dual usage such as fertilization materials for agriculture, metal robes and fibreglass used for renovating fishing boats.

The report also said that Israel decided to increase providing permissions for 5,000 Palestinian merchants and businessmen to go from Gaza to Israel and to the West Bank to increase Gaza Strip trade of export and import.

Since the start of the Great March of Return in late March last year, the Israeli army shot and killed 307 Palestinians and wounded by live ammunition more than 17,000 others.

Hamas and other factions, who are members in the commission of the marches of return, are demanding an end to the Israeli blockade that has been imposed on the coastal enclave since 2007.

Egypt, the United Nations and Qatar have been mediating a calm understanding between Israel and Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip to restore clam in Gaza for easing the tight Israeli measures that has been imposed on the enclave.

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Islamic Hamas movement official, said that the “battle with the occupation (Israel) is opened until the siege is lifted and until the Palestinians get their legitimate rights.”

Al-Hayya, who joined the rallies in eastern Gaza, told reporters that the marches of return will go on, adding “we will carry on with our political and popular activities until we reach our goals.”

Meanwhile, the highest commission that organizes the marches said in a press statement at the end of the weekly protests that the Palestinians reject any normalization between Israel and the Arabs before resolving the Palestinian cause.

The commission called on the Palestinian factions, mainly President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party and Hamas, to end their feuds and achieve unity, adding “by unity, we can present settlements and protect Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.”