During the sixth Friday of demonstrations near the Gaza Strip, 40 Palestinians, including three journalists, were injured after burning kites intended to be used to start fires in Israel were used as part of the protests, USA Today reported.
Israel’s military had warned against burning kites after a number of wildfires were started a day prior.
“Rioters are flying kites with burning items, intending to ignite fires in Israel,” the Israel Defense Forces said on Twitter. “Also, rioters hurled an explosive device at IDF troops who are responding with riot dispersal means [and] fire in accordance with the rules of engagement.”
Rioters are flying kites with burning items, intending to ignite fires in Israel. Also, rioters hurled an explosive device at IDF troops who are responding with riot dispersal means & fire in accordance with the rules of engagement
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) May 4, 2018
According to Israeli TV station Arutz Sheva, firefighters spent hours on Thursday fighting the forest fires that were ignited by the kites.
The demonstrations, known as the Great March of Return, started on March 30 and are a product of Palestinians’ demand for the right to return to Israel.
To date, more than 45 people have been killed as a result of the protests, including four children and two journalists. Some 5,500 have also been wounded, according to the United Nations.
Israel suggested that Palestinians should instead settle in a future Palestinian state in Gaza on the West Bank.
Palestinian protestors have threatened to rush the border fence between Gaza and Israel, which has prompted the Israeli military to order soldiers to fire at protestors’ legs if they do so.
More than 30,000 people have participated in the protests so far, which was sparked by a Facebook post months ago by Gaza political activist Ahmed Abu Artima.
It was suggested that thousands of unarmed Palestinians walk toward the border fence in peaceful protest as a means to end the separation between Palestinians and Israelis.
“I don’t believe in liberation,” Artima told Israel’s Ynet News, an online newspaper. “I want to live alongside Israelis.”
Palestinian leaders also seek the “right of return” for some 750,000 Palestinian refugees who were driven from their homes in what is now Israel.
“If Palestinian refugees decide one day to break through the fence and enter Israel en-masse, that is their legal and principled right, but we have no intention of doing that in the campaign’s first phase,” Artima told Ynet in the beginning of April
The demonstration was intended to be non-violent civil disobedience, likened to the acts of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
Thousands of men, women and children are currently gathered in tents along with border fence, and have since been joined by militants who have encouraged violence. Tires have been burned close to the fence, stones hurled over and gasoline bombs are tossed toward Israeli soldiers stationed on the other side.