Several thousands continue protest

GAZA BORDER – Several thousand Palestinians remained in tent camps along the Gaza border on Monday, continuing their protest for a right of return for refugees and their descendants to what is now Israel even after 16 demonstrators were killed by Israeli troops.

The numbers were far smaller than at the peak of the demonstration over the weekend, which saw the worst violence in Gaza since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, the armed Islamist group that controls the sealed-off coastal enclave.

Many protesters on Monday stayed back a safe distance, wary of Israeli soldiers who remained in position on the other side of the barrier.

The Israeli military said some of those who were shot on Friday, the first day of the protest, had fired at soldiers, rolled burning tyres and hurled rocks and fire bombs toward the border.

Hamas said five of the dead were members of its armed wing. Israel said eight of the 15 killed on Friday belonged to Hamas, and two to other militant factions.

However, Hamas denied that its fighters had fired on Israeli forces, using the crowds as cover.

On Monday, the Palestinian death toll rose to 16, after Palestinian medical officials said that a 29-year-old man died of wounds he suffered on Friday. The armed wing of Islamic Jihad claimed him as a member.

Gaza health officials said 12 people were wounded by Israeli fire on Monday and a military spokesperson said she was checking the details.

Those who have stayed in the camps seemed to have divided into three groups.

One, mostly youths, sometimes pushed to within a few dozen metres of the fence to hurl rocks at Israeli soldiers, who fired live and rubber bullets, and teargas canisters.

Others watched the stone-throwers from a distance. A third group stayed further back, sitting in and around the tents about 700 metres from the frontier. The mood there was calmer, with people snapping selfies and sharing stories about the protest while vendors sell ice cream, cigarettes and sandwiches.