Dozens of Palestinians were hit by Israeli gunfire Friday as thousands protested near Gaza’s border with Israel, the health ministry in the enclave said.
Following calls to avoid an escalation in violence, the demonstrators largely kept their distance from the fortified frontier fence.
But at least 115 Palestinians were injured -- 77 by live fire -- in clashes with Israeli soldiers, the health ministry in Gaza City said.
Rockets fired from Gaza on Wednesday had brought the territory’s Hamas rulers and Israel closer to a wide scale confrontation.
Since March, Palestinians have moved right up to the border fence every Friday and occasionally breached it, leading to clashes in which more than 200 Palestinians and one Israeli have been killed.
While thousands again gathered for the latest protests in northern Gaza, the demonstrators largely remained at least 100 meters from the border.
An AFP correspondent said Hamas security officials in at least one location were seen discouraging protesters from nearing the fence.
Kites and balloons equipped with incendiary devices were launched across the border into southern Israel, and the Israeli army said one of its aircraft targeted a group of men launching balloons.
An Egyptian security delegation visited the Gaza Strip on Thursday and encouraged Hamas leader Ismail Haniya to calm the protests, an Egyptian official said.
United Nations envoy Nickolay Mladenov, in a tweet, also urged all sides “to exercise restraint, to proceed in a peaceful manner, and to avoid escalation”.
On Wednesday, two rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave at Israel, with one destroying a house in the southern city of Beersheba.
In response Israeli air strikes targeted around 20 Hamas targets in Gaza.