Israeli security forces injured 42 Palestinians during demonstrations held on Saturday, August 21 at the Gaza-Israel border to mark the 1969 arson attack on the Al-Aqsa mosque. Two people were critically injured, including a 13-year-old boy who was shot in the head. The same night, Israeli air force fighter jets conducted airstrikes on Gaza, targeting multiple locations.
According to Palestinian health ministry sources, of those injured, 27 were shot by security forces with live ammunition, the majority of them on the lower halves of their bodies. Among the protesters injured, 10 were children. Several others suffered from tear gas inhalation. Eleven other Palestinians also suffered injuries as a result of the Israeli airstrikes.
In response to the Israeli violence, the protesters threw burnt tires at the Israeli soldiers stationed across the border fence, with Israel also alleging that ‘explosive devices’ were thrown at them by the protesters. One Israeli soldier was reportedly injured.
The weekend’s attacks on the demonstrations were the most significant escalation of Israeli violence on Gaza since the 11-day bombing campaign in May. The airstrikes that month killed more than 250 Palestinians, close to 70 of whom were children. It also injured close to 2,000 others and internally displaced approximately 70,000 Palestinians.
In a joint statement responding to Saturday’s events, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and other smaller Palestinian political groups in Gaza said that “the Israeli occupation must bear the responsibility for its obstruction of the reconstruction of Gaza, and for the blockade. We call on our people to continue their popular uprising in Gaza and to expand the points of engagement with the occupation, and our popular activity will proceed according to a plan … we will not accept the continuation of the siege.”
In a statement, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the Israeli airstrikes show that Israel was “trying to cover up its failure and disappointment in front of the steadfastness of our people and their valiant resistance.”
Palestinians in Gaza have resolved to continue protesting against the land, air, and sea blockade imposed by Israel since 2007. They also demanded that Israel allow and facilitate the reconstruction in the Gaza strip to improve the lives of the approximately 1.8 million Palestinian residents who have been living under the crippling blockade.
Palestinians mark the anniversary of the arson attack on the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest in Islam, every year. The incident, which took place on August 21, 1969, involved an Australian man named Dennis Michael Rohan, who claimed that he started the fire in the mosque to burn it down in the hope that it would advance the second coming of Jesus Christ. Past and present extremist Jewish settler movements in Israel have also very vocally and explicitly stated that they aim to destroy the mosque and build a Jewish temple in its place.