Pales­tini­ans bury 7 killed in lat­est Gaza flare-up

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Holiday - AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — Thou­sands of Gazans on Satur­day thronged the fu­ner­als of seven peo­ple killed by Is­raeli troops dur­ing mass protests the pre­vi­ous day, chant­ing anti-Is­rael and an­tiUS slo­gans.

The coastal strip’s rul­ing Ha­mas group, mean­while, dis­patched a del­e­ga­tion to Egypt in a new at­tempt to ease a crip­pling block­ade on the Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory.

Fri­day’s vi­o­lence was the dead­li­est day of protests in four months. Among the dead was an 11-year-old boy, be­lieved to be the youngest of 144 Pales­tini­ans killed by Is­raeli fire dur­ing the protests. An­other boy, 14, was also among the dead.

The protests were launched last March call­ing for an end to the block­ade im­posed by Is­rael and Egypt after the Is­lamic mil­i­tant group took con­trol of Gaza in 2007. The block­ade has rav­aged Gaza’s econ­omy, and with Egyp­tian-me­di­ated cease-fire ef­forts dead­locked, Ha­mas has vowed to step up the protests.

Is­rael ac­cused Ha­mas of ex­ploit­ing and en­dan­ger­ing civil­ians by us­ing the protests as cover for mil­i­tant ac­tions.

Re­spond­ing to calls by Ha­mas, thou­sands of Gazans par­tic­i­pated in Fri­day’s protests, burn­ing tires and us­ing the bil­low­ing thick smoke as a screen to hurl rocks and fire­bombs to­ward Is­raeli forces on the other side of the fence.

At one lo­ca­tion in east Gaza City, where four of the seven were killed, hun­dreds of protesters breached the fence.

The Is­raeli army said the protesters dam­aged se­cu­rity in­fra­struc­ture and threw more than 100 ex­plo­sives. No sol­diers were hurt. The Pales­tinian Health Min­istry re­ported 90 peo­ple were wounded by live fire, and seven killed.

About 1,000 mourn­ers at­tended the funeral of the 11-year-old, whose body was wrapped in a white shroud and car­ried on an orange stretcher.

Is­rael said it is de­fend­ing its bor­der and in a state­ment ac­cused Ha­mas of ex­ploit­ing and en­dan­ger­ing chil­dren by send­ing them to the fence “as a cover for ter­ror ac­tiv­ity”.

But Is­rael has come un­der heavy in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism for what many say is ex­ces­sive use of force and the high death toll among un­armed protesters.

The top UN hu­man­i­tar­ian of­fi­cial in the re­gion, Jamie McGoldrick, said on Satur­day that he was “deeply sad­dened” by the loss of life, urg­ing both sides to en­sure chil­dren are not the tar­get of vi­o­lence or put at risk.

The 11-year block­ade has made con­di­tions in­creas­ingly dire in Gaza. Un­em­ploy­ment has risen to more than 50 per­cent, res­i­dents re­ceive just sev­eral hours of elec­tric­ity each day.

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