Is­raeli forces kill 7 Pales­tini­ans in clashes on Gaza bor­der

Houston Chronicle - - NATION | WORLD -

JERUSALEM — Seven Pales­tini­ans were killed by Is­raeli fire Fri­day dur­ing stormy protests along the fence di­vid­ing Is­rael and Ha­mas-run Gaza, ac­cord­ing to Gaza health of­fi­cials.

Four of them were shot dead af­ter they crossed into Is­raeli ter­ri­tory and ap­proached an army snipers’ post, the Is­raeli mil­i­tary and a wit­ness said.

There were no in­juries on the Is­raeli side.

In re­sponse to the bor­der vi­o­lence, and to re­newed fires on the Is­raeli side of the fence caused by in­cen­di­ary bal­loons flown from Gaza, Is­rael’s de­fense min­is­ter, Avig­dor Lieber­man, an­nounced he was halt­ing Qatari-funded trans­fers of fuel into the Gaza Strip. The fuel ship­ments had be­gun in re­cent days to alle­vi­ate the chronic en­ergy short­age in Gaza that has left most of its 2 mil­lion res­i­dents with only eight hours of elec­tric­ity ev­ery 24 hours.

Ha­mas, the Is­lamic mil­i­tant group that con­trols Gaza, has been ar­rang­ing weekly demon­stra­tions along the Is­raeli bor­der for the past six months to protest the block­ade of the im­pov­er­ished Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory and de­mand a re­turn to land in what is now Is­rael. Af­ter at­ten­dance and in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion be­gan to wane in re­cent weeks, Ha­mas cre­ated spe­cial units to ex­pand the protests, which they call “The Great Re­turn March.”

The fuel trans­fers had been a first sign of progress af­ter weeks of in­ten­sive ef­forts by Egypt and the United Na­tions to me­di­ate a cease-fire be­tween Is­rael and Ha­mas. In ad­di­tion to the block­ade im­posed by Is­rael and Egypt, Ha­mas is con­tend­ing with eco­nomic sanc­tions im­posed by its ri­val, the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity, based in the West Bank.

Since the protests be­gan, about 200 Pales­tini­ans have been killed by Is­raeli fire, ac­cord­ing to the Gaza health min­istry. Is­rael says it acts to pre­vent breaches of the fence in vi­o­la­tion of its sovereignty and to pro­tect Is­raeli civil­ians liv­ing near the bor­der. One Is­raeli soldier has been killed, by sniper fire from Gaza.

The Is­raeli mil­i­tary said that about 15,000 Pales­tini­ans par­tic­i­pated in Fri­day’s protests in sev­eral lo­ca­tions along the fence and that ri­ot­ers burned tires and hurled rocks, ex­plo­sive de­vices and gre­nades at sol­diers and the fence.

The event, in which four of the Pales­tini­ans were killed, oc­curred near El Bureij refugee camp in the cen­tral Gaza Strip. There were con­flict­ing accounts of what hap­pened.

The Is­raeli mil­i­tary said as­sailants blew a hole in the fence with an ex­plo­sive de­vice and about 20 Pales­tini­ans en­tered Is­raeli ter­ri­tory. Sol­diers fired warn­ing shots and most protesters re­turned to Gaza, the mil­i­tary said; some ad­vanced to­ward a mil­i­tary post and were shot and killed.

Fadi Tha­bet, a Gaza pho­tog­ra­pher who was at the scene, said a group came within 30 to 50 yards of an Is­raeli snipers’ post but that three were killed as they re­treated, run­ning back to­ward the fence. A fourth, Tha­bet said by tele­phone, was shot at close range, “ex­e­cu­tion style,” as he tried to hide be­hind a ce­ment wall about 20 yards from the snipers’ post. Tha­bet said the Pales­tini­ans were un­armed.

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