Palestinian protesters run for cover from tears gas canisters fired by Israeli troops during clashes on the Gaza-Israel border, east of Gaza City. Picture: Khaled Omar/Xinhua
Palestinian protesters run for cover from tears gas canisters fired by Israeli troops during clashes on the Gaza-Israel border, east of Gaza City. Picture: Khaled Omar/Xinhua
Palestinian protesters carry an injured man during clashes with Israeli troops on the Gaza-Israel border. Picture: Wissam Nassar/Xinhua
Palestinian protesters carry an injured man during clashes with Israeli troops on the Gaza-Israel border. Picture: Wissam Nassar/Xinhua
A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones at Israeli troops east of Gaza City. Picture: Wissam Nassar/Xinhua
A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones at Israeli troops east of Gaza City. Picture: Wissam Nassar/Xinhua
The death toll of the ongoing confrontation between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers has risen to nine along the Gaza-Israel borders. Picture: Wissam Nassar/Xinhua
The death toll of the ongoing confrontation between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers has risen to nine along the Gaza-Israel borders. Picture: Wissam Nassar/Xinhua
Palestinian protesters carry an injured man during clashes on the Gaza-Israel border, east of Gaza City. picture: Khaled Omar/Xinhua
Palestinian protesters carry an injured man during clashes on the Gaza-Israel border, east of Gaza City. picture: Khaled Omar/Xinhua
Hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators set fire to dozens of car tires near the border between eastern Gaza Strip and Israel in a bid to make a shield of black smoke to protect themselves from Israeli soldiers' gunfire. Picture: Khaled Omar/Xinhua
Hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators set fire to dozens of car tires near the border between eastern Gaza Strip and Israel in a bid to make a shield of black smoke to protect themselves from Israeli soldiers' gunfire. Picture: Khaled Omar/Xinhua
A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones at Israeli troops during clashes on the Gaza-Israel border. Picture: Xinhua
A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones at Israeli troops during clashes on the Gaza-Israel border. Picture: Xinhua
(180406) -- GAZA, April 6, 2018 (Xinhua) -- A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones at Israeli troops during clashes on the Gaza-Israel border, east of Gaza City on April 6, 2018. Hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators began Friday to set fire to dozens of car tires near the border between eastern Gaza Strip and Israel in a bid to make a shield of black smoke to protect themselves from Israeli soldiers' gunfire. (Xinhua/Stringer) (zf)
(180406) -- GAZA, April 6, 2018 (Xinhua) -- A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones at Israeli troops during clashes on the Gaza-Israel border, east of Gaza City on April 6, 2018. Hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators began Friday to set fire to dozens of car tires near the border between eastern Gaza Strip and Israel in a bid to make a shield of black smoke to protect themselves from Israeli soldiers' gunfire. (Xinhua/Stringer) (zf)

Gaza City/Tel Aviv - Nine Palestinians were killed and hundreds injured by Israeli army gunfire during protests on Friday, as thousands gathered along the Gaza-Israeli border.

Among the dead were a 16-year-old and a Palestinian journalist, Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry, said Saturday.

Since last Friday, at least 31 Palestinians have died in connection with tensions along the border, in the Gaza Strip's bloodiest week in years.

Most of the deaths occurred during last week's protests, which also saw hundreds injured.

The Israeli army has said that it stopped multiple attempts to breach the border fence and was "responding with riot dispersal means, and fire in accordance with the rules of engagement."

Gazans camped along the border and set thousands of tyres ablaze, using the thick smoke and mirrors to obscure the vision of Israeli army snipers.

Pillars of black smoke emanated from the Gaza Strip as roughly 20,000 Gazans gathered around the border area and smaller groups of mostly young men pushed towards the border fence.

The demonstrators are staging a six-week protest, dubbed the "Great March of Return," to call for a return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants who fled or were expelled from their homes in present-day Israel in the 1948 war that marked Israel's creation.

Nearly 500 Palestinians were injured, 33 seriously, by live fire and rubber bullets on Friday, al-Qedra said, and many more suffered from tear gas inhalation.