Gazans mourn 7 killed in clashes; woman killed by Israeli settlers
GAZA CITY: Thousands of Palestinians attended funerals yesterday for seven young men shot dead a day earlier by Israeli troops during fresh demonstrations along the Gaza border, an AFP correspondent said. Mourners, including leaders of the enclave’s Islamist rulers Hamas, chanted slogans condemning Israel for shooting civilians and called on the international community to deliver justice. The Israeli army said five Palestinians had been killed during the protests Friday after they broke through the heavily-guarded border fence and attacked an army post.
Army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said around 20 Palestinians had crossed the border in an “organized attack” after an explosive device destroyed a portion of the fence. About five of those who got through the fence assaulted an Israeli army position and were “repelled”, he wrote on Twitter. The enclave’s health ministry said seven Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire as thousands of protesters approached the heavily-guarded Israeli border.
Yesterday, the ministry named the victims as: Ahmed Al-Taweel, 27, Mohammed Ismail, 29, Ahmed Abu Naim, 17, Abdullah Daghma, 25, Afifi Atta Afifi, 18, Tamer Abu Armaneh, 25 and Mohammed Abbas, 21.
The army said approximately 14,000 “rioters and demonstrators” took part in Friday’s protests. At least 205 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since protests began on March 30. The majority were killed during border demonstrations, though others have died in airstrikes and tank shelling. One Israeli soldier has been killed.
The protesters are demanding to be allowed to return to land now inside Israel, from which their families fled or were displaced during the 1948 war surrounding the creation of the Jewish state. They are also calling for Israel to end its crippling blockade of the strip. Israel accuses Hamas of leading the protests and using them as a cover for attacks. There had been hopes the protests would ease after a UN-brokered agreement to ease the strip’s energy crisis took effect this week. But thousands gathered once again on Friday at sites along the border, AFP correspondents said. They added that Hamas leader Ismail Haniya also attended the protests east of Gaza City and hailed the ongoing demonstrations.
Separately, a Palestinian woman died of her wounds after Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank threw stones at the car she was travelling in, Palestinian security sources and media said yesterday. An Israeli police spokesman confirmed a car had been hit by stones but did not identify the perpetrators. He said an investigation was underway but did not give further details. Palestinian official news agency Wafa identified the passenger who died as 48-year-old mother of eight, Aisha Mohammed Rabi.
She died in hospital in the northern West Bank city of Nablus from a head injury sustained in the stonethrowing incident south of the city on Friday, Wafa said, citing medical and Palestinian security sources. Her husband, who was driving the car at the time, escaped with minor injuries, the same sources said. Palestinian witnesses and security sources cited by the news agency said the stones were thrown by Israeli settlers.
Stone-throwing incidents implicating Israeli settlers have risen of late, the Palestinian security sources added. The Israeli army has not commented on the attack. Tensions have been running high in the West Bank over the past week with two attacks against Israelis. On Friday, Israeli forces said they had arrested
a Palestinian on suspicion of stabbing and wounding an army reservist on guard duty at a checkpoint south of Nablus the previous day. Another wanted Palestinian, who is suspected of killing two Israeli colleagues and wounding a third in the northern West Bank last Sunday, remains on the run. Israeli security forces have identified him as Ashraf Naalwa, 23.
Meanwhile, by suspending badly-needed fuel deliveries to the Gaza Strip after deadly overnight clashes, Israel has cast doubts on the viability of the hard-won measure aimed at helping the Palestinian people and easing tensions. The deal, brokered by the United Nations and backed by the United States, Israel and others, had seen thousands of liters of Qatari-bought fuel trucked into Gaza daily to boost the impoverished territory’s electricity supply. But only days after being brought into effect, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman late Friday ordered the deliveries to stop after clashes on the Gaza-Israel border.
The fuel deal had been reached without the agreement of the officially recognized Palestinian government, in what diplomats said was a first for Gaza which is controlled by the rival Palestinian faction, Hamas. And it had also raised questions on whether Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is slowly being sidelined. The Palestinian Authority (PA) headed by Abbas has semi autonomy in parts of the occupied West Bank, but lost control of Gaza to Hamas in a nearcivil war in 2007. But the PA has long been the only address for most international powers and a senior official declared Thursday it would no longer work with the UN envoy who brokered the deal.
The UN and other parties say they are merely seeking to improve the desperate humanitarian situation in the strip, under a crippling Israeli blockade for a decade. More than two thirds of Gaza’s two million residents rely on aid, while there are only four hours of mains electricity a day. Great efforts were made to convince Abbas to agree to the fuel deal, UN and diplomatic sources said, with a decision ultimately made to work around him. “The humanitarian imperative is more important than the relationship with the PA,” one diplomat said.
Under the limited agreement which came into force on Tuesday Qatar, a longtime Hamas backer, was to pay $60 million for fuel to be brought into Gaza over six months to fuel the strip’s sole power plant. At least six trucks have entered the Gaza Strip since Tuesday, bringing more than 200,000 liters of diesel, and there had been plans for it to reach up to 15 trucks a day. On Thursday senior Palestinian official Ahmed Majdalani said UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov, architect of the deal, was “no longer acceptable” to the PA, accusing him of exceeding his mandate. — Agencies
GAZA: Palestinian protesters carry a youth injured by Israeli forces on the IsraelGaza border on Friday.