Israel threatens to expand response

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Israel will target “terror organizations” in Gaza if violence along the territory’s border with Israel drags on, the chief military spokesman warned Saturday, a day after thousands of Palestinians staged protests near the border fence.

Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, the chief army spokesman, denied allegations of excessive use of force, saying those killed by Israeli troops were men between the ages of 18 and 30 who were involved in violence and belonged to militant factions.

He alleged Gaza health officials exaggerated the number of those wounded, and that several dozen at most were injured by live fire while the rest were merely shaken up by tear gas and other riot dispersal means.

Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital received 284 injured people Friday, the majority with bullet injuries, said spokesman Ayman Sahbani. He said 70 were under the age of 18 and 11 were women.

He said 40 surgeries were performed Friday and that 50 were planned Saturday. “These are all from live bullets that broke limbs or caused deep, open wounds with damage to nerves and veins,” he said.

Among those recovering from surgery was 16-year-old Marwan Yassin who had thrown stones with a slingshot at the fence Friday and was shot in both legs. One of his legs was wrapped in bandages and the other had a cast and metal fixtures.
His mother said at his bedside that she would ban him from future protests.

On Saturday, a few hundred people gathered at five tent encampments that have been set up several hundred meters from the border fence. The tents serve as the launch points for marches.

Manelis reiterated Saturday that Israel “will not allow a massive breach of the fence into Israeli territory.”

He said that Hamas and other Gaza militant groups are using protests as a cover for staging attacks. If violence continues, “we will not be able to continue limiting our activity to the fence area and will act against these terror organizations in other places too,” he said.

The border protests were seen as a new attempt by Hamas to break the border blockade, imposed by Israel and Egypt after the group seized Gaza from forces loyal President Mahmoud Abbas, in 2007.

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