What I Saw: At the Gaza-Israel Fence: Raw Nerves and Shots Fired

Israeli officials point to the tactics employed by the protesters, including rolling burning tires or sending kites rigged with homemade firebombs toward Israel, to justify their use of deadly force. The demonstrators say they want to escape the prisonlike conditions in Gaza and intend to breach the fence, whatever it takes.

The confrontations appeared likely to reach a climax on Monday, when the United States is scheduled to move its embassy to Jerusalem, and on Tuesday, when Palestinians mark the 70th anniversary of what they call the Nakba, or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes in what is now Israel.

On Sunday, young men piled tires high at protest camps along the fence, or huddled in tents where they showed off their skills in making kite-bombs, crude devices designed to destroy crops, they said.

What I Saw: At the Gaza-Israel Fence: Raw Nerves and Shots Fired
What I Saw: At the Gaza-Israel Fence: Raw Nerves and Shots Fired

In one district east of Gaza City, young men donned black and white shirts that resembled those worn by prisoners in concentration camps, a publicity stunt intended to liken the Israelis to Nazis. Supporters of Islamic Jihad, a militant group backed by Iran, put on a musical show.

And, up near the fence, firing erupted as women moved to the front of the protest.

I finally learned the wounded woman’s name — Alaa Asawafiri — when I found her mother in a hospital corridor, her cheeks smeared with tears, clutching her daughter’s silver sneakers in a plastic bag.

Ms. Asawafiri, 26, was born with a mental disability, said her brother, Mohammed. She learned embroidery at a school for people with disabilities. Her work led her to the protest: she wanted to show off the embroidered bags and cellphone covers she had made.

Her brother did not know how she ended up at the front of the crowd. In any event, she was not behaving in a violent or menacing way, he said. “She wasn’t holding a stone,” he said. “So what’s the excuse for shooting her?”

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