Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians, injure 120 others during Gaza protests

The family of the deceased soldier has been notified.

Meanwhile, a third Palestinian was killed due to Israeli forces carrying out airstrikes in the Rafah district, in southern Gaza.

In a Washington Post opinion piece on Thursday, top Trump administration officials demanded that Hamas end its reign of terror and the "nightmare" it has visited on Palestinians in Gaza.

Palestinians also pointed out that blaming exclusively Hamas - which has governed Gaza since 2007 - for the besieged territory's problems is "disingenuous", while absolving Israel's role in perpetuating the suffering of the people of Gaza.

But after weeks of unrelenting fires, and growing political pressure from Israelis living near the border, the government has now declared the balloons to be an unbearable provocation that must be met firmly.

In particular, Israeli politicians have promised a fiercer reaction to balloons and kites attached with incendiary devices, which are flown over the border into Israel in a bid to start fires.

The weekly protests led by Gaza's Hamas rulers against Israel are meant in part to draw attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after the militant group assumed control of Gaza in 2007.

Local sources told Ma'an that hundreds of Gaza residents raced to the return camps along the eastern border of the Gaza Strip to participate in a protest, where they demonstrated against UNWRA's scheme against the rights of refugees.

Israel says Hamas has been orchestrating the demonstrations to provide cover for militants' cross-border attacks.

Khalil Al-Hayya, Hamas's deputy chief in Gaza, said on Friday the kites would continue to fly. The death of a soldier on Friday is the first Israeli fatality in the exchanges.

The Israeli army said one of its soldiers was also killed after gunfire near the fence.

Around 140 Palestinians, mainly unarmed demonstrators, have been killed since late March.

"We are trying to be balanced and responsible but Hamas's leaders are forcing us into a situation in which we will have no choice but to embark on a broad and painful military operation", Lieberman said.

A former senior American official, however, said he does not see a solution on the horizon given the wide gulf between the positions of Hamas and Israel.

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