Three Palestinians killed in Gaza border violence
Said KHATIB (AFP)
Three Palestinians were killed in demonstrations and clashes that erupted along the Gaza-Israel border Friday, but the renewed violence did not upset a delicate truce between Israel and militants in the enclave.
It was the 20th consecutive Friday that thousands of Palestinians had gathered for the 'Great March of Return' protests, which are often marred by violent confrontations with Israeli troops stationed along the border.
The Palestinian health ministry said two people including a paramedic were killed by Israeli fire Friday, and that a 40-year-old man succumbed to his wounds on Saturday morning.
Some 9,000 Palestinians demonstrators gathered at five different locations along the Gaza border, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said.
IDF said the demonstrators were gathering in five areas along to border fence, throwing stones and explosive devices at Israeli forces and the fence itself.
The health ministry in Gaza said 307 people were treated by medics during the afternoon and evening, and identified the killed paramedic as Abdullah al-Qatiti.
The ministry said 167 Palestinians have been killed since the protests began. Dozens belonged to Hamas or other militant groups in the enclave, according to the Israeli military and an official from Hamas, Gaza's Islamist rulers.
The protests follow the third negotiated ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to occur within a month after two days of heightened violence.
Over 180 mortar shells and rockets were launched by Hamas throughout Wednesday and Thursday, the Israeli military said. In response, the Israeli air force attacked 150 targets in the enclave.
A source familiar with ceasefire negotiations said Egypt and the United Nations had negotiated a return to calm starting shortly before midnight Thursday, seemingly bringing an end to the upturn in violence.
Israel did not confirm the agreement, but a separate Israeli diplomatic source said it would kick in at midnight. Earlier, the security cabinet authorized the army to continue "acting against any sources of terror."
The Great March of Return protests began as a collective effort by various Palestinian groups, demanding they be allowed to return to ancestral homelands in what is now Israel.
But Hamas, an Islamist militant group, quickly took greater control of the demonstrations.
The marches have been accompanied by clashes as some protesters hurl stones at Israeli soldiers and attempt to breach the border fence, at times laying explosive devices on the fence and using incendiary kites to set ablaze Israeli fields.
Israel accuses Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas of using the protests as an excuse to carry out attacks and has responded with both lethal and non-lethal force, saying it is necessary to defend its borders and stop infiltration.
Several Israeli allies and the United Nations have expressed alarm at the high number of deaths from Israeli fire, particularly at the deaths of children, medics and journalists.
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