Explosion near Gaza boundary wall kills five Palestinians

Yolande Knell & Rushdi Abu Alouf

BBC News  /  September 14, 2023

The funerals have taken place of five Palestinians killed in an explosion in Gaza by the boundary wall with Israel.

Hundreds had joined two rallies at the time of the blast on Wednesday evening.

The Israeli military said there had been “an attempt by rioters to launch an explosive device” at its soldiers.

A Palestinian security source told the BBC that a home-made device “typically used to cause a disturbance by making a very loud, annoying sound” had exploded as young men were trying to throw it.

More than 20 people were injured, Palestinian medics say.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said protesters had previously thrown explosives and grenades at soldiers.

A grainy black and white video released by the IDF shows the explosion close to a concrete wall, which Israel has built around Gaza, as a small crowd of people runs away.

A graphic Palestinian video seen by the BBC shows a large group of young men about 2m from the Israeli barrier when there is a powerful explosion which appears to kill some protesters instantly. No Israeli forces are visible.

A witness, Saif Muhareb said he was with a group of some 50 people.

“We found a black object that looked like a camera – 10cm wide and 50cm long. I was towards the back when someone touched it and it exploded.”

Tensions in the area have recently increased after months of relative calm.

Mass protests took place between 2018 and 2019, known as the Great March of Return.

Israeli snipers opened fire at protesters during the weekly demonstrations, killing more than 300 Palestinians and injuring thousands of others, according to the Palestinian health ministry. The Israeli military said it shot at people trying to infiltrate its territory.

One of Wednesday’s demonstrations was called by Palestinian political factions – including the militant group Hamas, which governs Gaza – to mark the anniversary of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the strip in 2005. Another was called to show support for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

On Thursday morning, a small crowd of mourners gathered to carry bodies of those killed in the explosion from Shifa Hospital, in the heart of Gaza City.

Wael al-Zard, a local Hamas leader and preacher at the Grand Mosque, lost his son, 18-year-old Baraa.

“My heart is sad and my eyes shed tears over the loss of my son, the joy of my heart,” he said.

“But we say, thanks to God, I’m pleased to be the father of a martyr who sacrificed himself for the sake of his homeland. He made me hold my head high.” 

Yolande Knell in Jerusalem

Rushdi Abu Alouf in Gaza City