Jerusalem: Israel's military bombed Palestinian militant weapons sites in the Gaza Strip early Sunday in response to a violent demonstration on the perimeter fence that left an Israeli police officer critically injured, reports Associated Press quoting Israel army.
According to the report, Saturday's violence erupted after hundreds of Palestinians took part in a demonstration organised by Gaza's Hamas rulers to draw attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the territory.
The demonstration grew violent after dozens of people approached the fortified border fence and threw rocks and explosives toward Israeli soldiers from behind a black smoke screen billowing from burning tires, says the report.
A total of 41 Palestinian demonstrators were shot and wounded by Israeli soldiers, including 15 children, two of whom are in critical condition, Xinhua news agency quoted Mohammed Abu Silmeya, director of Shifa Hospital here as saying on Saturday.
The Israeli army said in a statement that around 100 Palestinians approached the fence of the border and threw hand grenades at the soldiers, who opened fire to disperse them.
Meanwhile, Israeli media reported that the demonstrators cut the barbed wire of the fence.
Ismail Redwan, a Hamas leader, quoted as saying that the Palestinian factions are following up the situation in eastern Gaza, adding that "the factions will continue protecting the Palestinian people".
The Palestinian factions, including Hamas, hold Israel fully responsible for opening live ammunition at the demonstrators, he said.
On Friday, the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip called on the enclave's residents to demonstrate near the borderline area with Israel to mark the 52nd anniversary of burning Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem.
Khalil al-Hayyah, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza quoted as saying that his movement will continue defending Al-Aqsa Mosque and its struggle to end an Israeli blockade that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip for 15 years.
Meanwhile Israel army said in a statement that fighter planes hit four weapons and storage manufacturing sites belonging to Gaza's Hamas rulers in response to the violent demonstrations. The statement also added that the military has deployed additional troops to the region near the border with the Palestinian enclave. There were no immediate reports of injuries in the airstrikes.
Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies that have fought four wars and countless skirmishes since the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza in a 2007 coup, a year after winning a Palestinian election.
May's most recent round of fighting, an 11-day war fought to an inconclusive cease-fire, killed at least 254 people in Gaza, including 67 children and 39 women, according to the Gaza health ministry. Hamas has acknowledged the deaths of 80 militants. Twelve civilians, including two children, were killed in Israel, along with one soldier.