GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Thousands of Palestinians protested along the volatile Gaza-Israel frontier on Friday, hours after Israel and the territory’s Hamas rulers confirmed an agreement to honor a past cease-fire.
The unofficial truce, mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations, emphasizes calm in exchange for Israeli measures to improve living conditions in the blockaded Palestinian enclave.
But during the protests, Palestinian youths were seen launching incendiary balloons toward Israeli farmland. Others approached the heavily guarded fence at several locations.
Israeli troops opened fire and lobbed tear gas at the demonstrators. Gaza’s health ministry said 19 of them were wounded by live fire.
Earlier on Friday, Israel restored fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip’s sole power plant and expanded the permitted fishing zone off the enclave’s coast, easing some recent restrictions.The restrictions had been placed in response to the balloons that recently sparked wildfires in southern Israel.
An Israeli official confirmed Palestinian reports that Israel had resumed fuel deliveries that were cut off earlier this week, and extended the fishing zone up to 15 nautical miles from 10 nautical miles.
The official said that in return, the Hamas militant group which rules Gaza “promised to halt the attacks on Israel,” a reference to the balloons and marches along the border. The official spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations.
Hamas said it “won’t allow the occupation to retreat” from cease-fire terms.
In May, Hamas and Israel exchanged rockets and airstrikes in the worst round of cross-border violence since a 2014 war. The mediators try to defuse tension by pacifying the border to prevent the two sides from plunging into what would be the fourth full-fledged war since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007.