Gaza Protests Mobilize Israelis

NATIV HAASARA, Israel -- Israel deployed thousands of troops and police officers along the volatile border with the Gaza Strip on Monday, fearing a mass demonstration by the Hamas militant group against Israel's blockade of Gaza would turn violent and spill into Israel.

The demonstration appeared to end without incident. But troops remained on high alert, reflecting the widespread sense of alarm in Israel since Hamas militants blew up Gaza's border with Egypt last month, enabling hundreds of thousands of people to cross.

Concerned that Hamas would use similar tactics Monday, Israeli authorities set up several checkpoints in southern Israel to keep civilians from nearing the border fence, and several areas were declared closed military zones. Police said some 5,000 officers were sent to back up the troops, and media reports said the army also stationed an artillery battery and snipers along the border.

Colonel Zeev Sharoni, a military spokesman, said authorities did not have any specific warnings of trouble. Nonetheless, he said, "the army will do everything necessary to prevent people from crossing into Israeli territory."

Israel imposed the blockade after Hamas violently seized control of Gaza last June, and it has recently tightened sanctions in response to heavy rocket fire by Gaza militants.

On Monday, a 10-year-old Israeli boy in the southern town of Sderot was seriously wounded in a rocket attack, hospital officials said. The Israeli rescue service Magen David Adom said his arm had been partially severed.

Israeli government spokesman David Baker said Israel would continue to attack Palestinian militants. "Those who raise their hands against Israeli children will be pursued by Israel, and we will take all measures necessary to prevent such attacks on our civilians," Baker said.