(msnbc)- Israel cut off fuel supplies to Gaza's 1.4 million residents on Thursday, a day after four Palestinian militants infiltrated the Israeli depot that is the territory's sole source of fuel and shot dead two workers.
The brazen daylight raid in southern Israel threatened to set off a new round of fighting in Gaza after a monthlong lull and could jeopardize recently renewed peace efforts between Israel and moderate Palestinians in the West Bank.
On Thursday afternoon, hundreds of demonstrators began flocking to main intersections of Gaza City, the coastal strip's largest town, to protest Israel's months-old blockade of the territory and the accompanying economic sanctions that have deepened the hardship of ordinary Gazans.
"Rescue Gaza, lift the siege imposed on Gaza," read signs hoisted at one junction.
A mass demonstration against the blockade has been called for Friday.
Three smaller militant factions claimed they carried out the attack on the Nahal Oz fuel depot on Wednesday, but the Israeli government held Gaza's Hamas rulers responsible. It sent tanks, troops and aircraft into the Palestinian territory after the raid, killing at least eight Palestinians, including three civilians.
Wednesday's attack upset more than a month of relative calm following a broad Israeli military offensive that killed more than 120 Gazans, including dozens of civilians. Since the offensive ended in early March, Egypt has been trying to mediate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, and the sides appeared to have been honoring an informal truce.
On Thursday, a senior Israeli official warned that more reprisals were in the offing.
"We will chose the time and the place to respond. The blame lies on Hamas as the responsible authority there," Matan Vilnai, Israel's deputy defense minister, told Israel's Army Radio.
Abu Ahmed of Islamic Jihad said the attack deliberately targeted the fuel depot on which Gazans depend.
"This fuel (from Israel) is dipped in humiliation," he said, because people wait for it for hours. "If their fuel means humiliation for us, we don't want it."
Israel did not ship fuel on Thursday and at least two Israeli ministers said Israel should cut it off completely following the attack. Other officials said the flow would be renewed shortly to avert a humanitarian crisis.