GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip  | The Latest: Palestinians stream toward Gaza border fence

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip  — The Latest on Gaza protests and Jerusalem Day demonstrations around the Middle East (all times local):

2:55 p.m.

Thousands of Palestinians are streaming toward the fence separating Gaza from Israel for a protest against the decade-long blockade of their territory.

In some areas, they burned tires Friday, sending black smoke into the air. Witnesses say that along one stretch of the fence, they heard gunshots. They say Israeli soldiers also fired tear gas volleys. One man with a bullhorn shouted, “America is the biggest evil.”

Friday’s march is part of a series of protests held since late March against the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the territory. Demonstrators have also pressed demands for a “right of return” for Palestinians uprooted in the 1948 war over Israel’s creation.

Friday’s march coincides with “Jerusalem Day,” instituted by post-Islamic Revolution Iran as an annual protest against Israeli control over the holy city.


2:35 p.m.

Israelis and Palestinians are gearing up for another mass demonstration along the fence with Gaza.

Palestinians burnt tires near the border and Israeli soldiers took positions Friday.

Israeli firefighters were on standby to battle fires caused by kites rigged with burning rags launched by Palestinians that have damaged forests and crops in past protests.

Over 115 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during near-weekly demonstrations that began March 30.

Protests led by the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza are fueled by frustration over a decade-old Israel-Egyptian blockade, imposed after Hamas seized control there.

Israel is bracing for a large turnout as the protest coincides with “Jerusalem Day” that its archenemy Iran established to coincide with the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to express support for the Palestinians.


1 p.m.

Scores of Syrians and Palestinians have commemorated the Jerusalem Day marching through the streets of Damascus while chanting anti-Israel slogans.

The men and women marched from the Hamidyeh market in the old city of Damascus to the Umayyad Mosque and waved the Syrian and Palestinian flags.

Hamid Hassan, 73, a Palestinian, said that the Jerusalem Day “means a lot for us. Jerusalem is an Arab land and it’s the land of all religions.”

He added: “We will continue to offer martyrs until we liberate it. We will never kneel.”

Syrian citizen Samah Abdullah, 42, said the issue of Jerusalem is the cause of all Muslims, adding that commemorating the day is a “motivation for us and for all Palestinians to restore the occupied land.”


12:25 p.m.

Organizers are urging Gaza residents to head to the perimeter fence with Israel for the latest in a series of protests.

The call was issued through mosques and loudspeakers mounted on cars that toured Gaza neighborhoods Friday.

Marchers have protested an Israeli-Egyptian border blockade. On Friday, protests also coincide with “Jerusalem Day,” marked by Iran since its 1979 Islamic revolution.

Iran does not recognize Israel or its control over Jerusalem, whose Israeli-annexed eastern sector Palestinians seek as a future capital.

Iran supports several militant groups, including Gaza’s ruling Hamas and smaller Islamic Jihad.

In border protests, activists have burned tires to block the view of Israeli snipers. Organizers say Israeli drones dropped incendiary materials on piles of old tires early Friday to make them unusable for the later protests.


12:05 p.m.

Thousands of Iran-backed Shiite militiamen have marched through a main Baghdad street to mark “Jerusalem Day.”

The men in military uniforms carried posters of late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei before setting an Israeli flag on fire.

Jerusalem Day began after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, when the Ayatollah Khomeini declared the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan a day to demonstrate the importance of Jerusalem to Muslims.

Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque is the third holiest site in Islam after the Saudi Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.


9:35 a.m.

Iranians have begun anti-Israel “Jerusalem Day” rallies across the country to condemn Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

The rallies, including one at Tehran University, were expected to last through Friday prayer ceremonies.

Chanting “Death to Israel,” demonstrators protested Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem, the city where Muslims believe Islam’s Prophet Muhammad began his journey to heaven. Palestinians want East Jerusalem for their future capital.

Iran does not recognize Israel and supports anti-Israeli militant groups such as Hamas, which rules Gaza, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Demonstrators also chanted anti-American slogans to condemn the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

Iran has marked Al-Quds Day since the start of its 1979 Islamic revolution. Al-Quds is the historic Arabic name for Jerusalem, and Iran says the day is an occasion to express support for the Palestinians.


8:10 a.m.

The Israeli military is expecting a large turnout for a protest at the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip and is warning residents to stay far away.

Over 115 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during near-weekly demonstrations that began March 30.

The Hamas-led demonstrations have been fueled by despair over a decade-old Israel-Egyptian blockade, imposed after the Islamic militant group seized control of the territory.

Demonstrators have also called for the “right of return” to lost ancestral homes in what is now Israel. Some two-thirds of Gaza’s 2 million people are descendants of refugees who fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment in 1948.

Friday’s demonstrations are meant to coincide with “Jerusalem Day,” a day of protest against Israeli control of the city of Jerusalem.


By Associated Press