Israeli air strike on Gaza border kills Palestinian

Fatalities bring to 21 the number of Palestinians killed by Israel in the volatile area over the past week

TOPSHOT – A Palestinian protestor uses a slingshot to throw a stone during clashes with Israeli forces following a tent city gathering at the Israel-Gaza border east of Gaza City on April 4, 2018. / AFP / MAHMUD HAMS

Occupied Jerusalem: An Israeli air strike in northern Gaza early on Thursday killed a Palestinian, while a second man died from wounds sustained in last week’s mass protest along the Gaza-Israel border, officials said.

The fatalities bring to 21 the number of Palestinians killed by Israel in the volatile area over the past week.

A new round of protests along the border is expected on Friday, raising the prospect of further bloodshed.

The protest march last week, largely organised by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, had been billed as the first of several weeks of intermittent protests against a stifling decade-old Israeli blockade.

Hamas leaders have portrayed the final protest, set for May 15, as the “Great March of Return” of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, implying they would try to enter Israeli territory. But they have stopped short of specifically threatening a mass breach of the border fence.

In the latest violence, the military said an aircraft had targeted an “armed terrorist adjacent to the security fence” in northern Gaza early in the morning. The Gaza Health Ministry confirmed the man’s death but did not immediately release his identity.

It also confirmed the death of a man who was wounded in last Friday’s protests.

More than 1,000 people were wounded by live fire last week, according to Palestinian health officials.

Of the 21 dead so far, 15 were killed during border protests, and videos and witness accounts indicate that most were not armed or carrying out attacks at the moment they were killed.

The United Nations and the European Union have called for independent investigations into the shootings.

Meanwhile, Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel held separate meetings this week with Israeli officials and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the West Bank-based rival of Hamas, in hopes of preventing an escalation on the Gaza border.

In recent months, Egypt had tried to broker a deal that would have enabled Abbas to take back control in the Gaza Strip, more than a decade after Hamas seized the territory from forces loyal to him.

Hamas, in turn, had hoped that Israel and Egypt would end their blockade Gaza if the group handed the reins of government to Abbas.

However, talks broke down last month, in part because Hamas refused to disarm.

Hamas and Israel have fought three wars in the Gaza Strip since 2009.

Abbas told the Egyptian intelligence this week that he would not waste any more time negotiating a deal with Hamas and that he would only assume responsibility for Gaza if Hamas hands over all powers, including control over the security apparatus, according to two Palestinian officials.

All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of the meeting with reporters.


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