Israel will target militant groups inside Gaza if violence along the territory's border with Israel drags on, the chief military spokesman warned on Saturday, a day after 15 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in the area's deadliest violence in four years, the AP reports. The violence significantly petered down Saturday as just small groups of Palestinians threw stones in several areas near the border fence, drawing Israeli fire that injured 25 people, the Gaza Health Ministry says. Friday's mass marches were largely led by Gaza's ruling Hamas group and touted as the launch of a six-week-long protest campaign against a stifling decade-old blockade of the territory.
Protests are aiming to culminate in a large border march on May 15, the 70th anniversary of Israel founding. The date is mourned by Palestinians as their "nakba,"or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands were uprooted in the 1948 Mideast war over Israel's creation. Organizers set up five tent encampments, each several hundred meters from the border to serve as launch points for protest. Some young men broke away Saturday, throwing stones at Israeli soldiers on the other side of the fence, drawing live rounds and tear gas. In two separate incidents, an AP reporter saw two men who walked close to the fence get shot in the legs by soldiers. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the soldiers Saturday for allowing the rest of the country to celebrate the Passover holiday safely.