Thousands of Palestinians formed a human chain in the Gaza Strip on Monday in a peaceful protest against an Israeli blockade that has deepened hardship in the Hamas-controlled territory.
Israel had put troops on alert along the frontier and threatened to open fire if protesters tried to surge across the border. But the event, organized by Hamas Islamists and allied activists, ended without incident some two hours after it began.
Organizers attributed the low turnout of about 4,500 – versus an expected 40,000 to 50,000 participants – to bad weather and said larger events would be held to force Israel to end what they called its "imprisonment" of Gaza's 1.5 million residents.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas official, said the human chain was a message to Israel "and many other parties that Gaza has become a ticking bomb that could explode at any time if the siege is not lifted".
Gaza's isolation intensified when Hamas took control of the area in June after street fighting in which it routed Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has embarked on peace talks with Israel.
Last month, Israel tightened the blockade on the territory, limiting supplies of fuel and other goods in what it described as a response to cross-border rocket fire by militants.
As the Gaza protest was ending, a cross-border rocket attack wounded a child in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, medical officials said.
Militants say they carry out rocket attacks in response to Israeli raids and would stop if Israel lifted the Gaza blockade.
Hamas, which is shunned by Israel and the West, has offered a skeptical Israel a conditional, long-term ceasefire.