Israel bombs Gaza after violent clashes between soldiers and protesters

The Israeli military launched air raids on Gaza following clashes between its soldiers and Palestinian protesters during a demonstration to commemorate the burning of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque 52 years ago.

In a statement late on Saturday, the Israeli military said it struck four weapons manufacturing and storage sites in Gaza belonging to Hamas, the group that governs the besieged Palestinian enclave. Eleven Palestinians were reportedly wounded.

The raids came hours after Israeli soldiers opened fire on crowds of young Palestinians protesting at the fence separating Gaza and Israel.

The Palestinian health ministry said dozens of people were wounded, including a 13-year-old Palestinian boy who was shot in the head.

“Forty-one civilians were wounded with various injuries,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Israeli military called the protesters “rioters” and said some had tried to climb the border fence and hurled “explosive devices” at its soldiers.

The military said it “responded with riot dispersal means, including when necessary live fire”.

The Israel border police said a 21-year-old sniper in its undercover unit was critically wounded when he was shot by a Palestinian protester. “His condition is critical and there is a risk to his life,” it said.

Palestinian factions had urged a peaceful commemoration ahead of the demonstration, while “Hamas called out the Israeli occupation forces’ excessive force against unarmed civilians as a regular thing Israel is used to”.

The group also “said the Palestinians will continue to send messages that they will not allow the Israeli forces to continue imposing the siege on the Gaza Strip and its people”.

Late on Saturday, Hamas and other groups in Gaza issued a joint statement in which they “saluted the heroic youth” who clashed with Israeli forces.

The violence was some of the worst since a deadly assault by Israel on the Gaza Strip in May.