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Egypt said in talks with Israel, Palestinians to prevent Gaza border escalation

Palestinian protesters use slingshots to hurl stones during a demonstration near the border between Israel and Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 21, 2018
SAID KHATIB / AFP
Egypt said demands evidence backing Palestinian claims that snipers opened fire on protesters 300m from border

Egypt is reportedly engaged in efforts to avoid a new flare-up between Israel and militant factions in Gaza following the deaths of four Palestinians during clashes that erupted amid renewed protests on the volatile border last week.

Egypt has reportedly been working to prevent a new flare-up after the leaders of Palestinian militant factions in the Strip threatened retaliation for “Israel’s stupidity and crimes against our people” after four protesters were shot and killed by Israeli forces during protests last Friday.

Sources in the Gaza told i24NEWS on Monday that an Egyptian intelligence delegation is set to visit the enclave as part of their mediation efforts.

A report by Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper on Monday said that Israel had conveyed to the Palestinians through Egypt that it remained committed to the fragile calm in place since November.

A Palestinian source quoted by the paper said that Egyptian representatives have demanded that Gazan militant factions, namely Hamas and Islamic Jihad, not escalate the situation and that they provide evidence that Israeli forces fired at protesters more than 300 meters away from the border fence last Friday as they have claimed.

The Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip on Saturday confirmed the deaths of four Palestinians, among them a 16-year-old, following clashes with Israeli soldiers that erupted as some 8,000 protesters amassed at various flashpoints along the volatile Gaza-Israel border.

AP Photo/Adel Hana

A joint statement on Sunday from Gazan militant factions said that this coming Friday would be a “test for Israel and its conduct towards the Palestinian demonstrators near the fence” as they claimed that Israeli snipers opened fire on demonstrators who posed no threat to soldiers.

Israel maintained that its forces opened fire "according to operational procedures" in place and that protesters burned tires and launched rocks and incendiary devices across the heavily fortified security fence toward soldiers.

Friday’s protests were held under the same "Great March of Return" banner as weekly protests organized by Hamas since March 30.

Though Hamas declared that the protests were entering their 39th consecutive week last Friday, it was only the sixth week in a row that Gazans have flocked to the border following a ceasefire agreement reached between Israel and Hamas in November.

Friday's casualties were the first since the November ceasefire was implemented.

MAHMUD HAMS (AFP)

Since the protests began on March 30, at least 239 Palestinians, including 50 members of Hamas, mostly by Israeli fire during border clashes but also by air and tank strikes.

Two Israeli soldiers have been killed over the same period, one by a Palestinian sniper and another during an aborted special forces operation inside Gaza.

The botched special forces operation inside Gaza sparked a massive flare-up which saw nearly 500 rockets fired at southern Israel in a 25-hour bombardment and threatened to flounder Egyptian and UN-brokered efforts up until then to end months of ongoing violence on the border.

The conflagration -- the most serious since a 2014 war between the sides -- was brought to an end after Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire, which also saw a lull in the weekly protests.

The truce sparked political turmoil in Israel, however, with Avigdor Liberman resigning as defense minister less than 24-hours after the ceasefire took effect, slamming the truce and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policies on Gaza as a "capitulation to terror."

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