Border protests by Palestinians continue for ninth weekend

Israelis on alert as Muslims celebrate second Friday of Ramadan holy month

Sons of a Palestinian, who died of wounds sustained during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border, mourn at their father’s funeral in the central Gaza Strip. Photograph: Mohammed Salem

Sons of a Palestinian, who died of wounds sustained during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border, mourn at their father’s funeral in the central Gaza Strip. Photograph: Mohammed Salem

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Gaza Strip residents protested along the border with Israel for the ninth weekend in a row on Friday, with Israelis on high alert as Muslims marked the second Friday of the holy month of Ramadan.

Fewer than 2,000 people joined Friday’s demonstrations and only a few were hurt. About a dozen fires were caused on the Israeli side of the fence from incendiary kites launched by Gaza protesters, according to Israeli officials.

Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar said the demonstrations would continue and peak on four consecutive days of protests to begin on June 5th, when the Palestinians commemorate Naksa Day, marking the 1967 Six-Day War when Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan and Gaza from Egypt.

The Gazan health ministry reported on Thursday that two young Palestinians who recently participated in the border demonstrations succumbed to their injuries, bringing to at least 121 the number of Palestinians killed since the March of Return protests began on March 30th. Thousands have been wounded and 330 are still receiving treatment in Gaza hospitals.

The border has been relatively quiet since May 14th, when 62 Palestinians were killed on the same day that the United States transferred its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Hamas spokesman Salah Bardawil admitted that 50 out of the 62 fatalities that day were members of the “Hamas family”.

Israeli sniper post

Earlier this week, militants infiltrated across the border and set fire to an abandoned Israeli sniper post and the Israeli air force destroyed a tunnel in the northern Gaza Strip.

Israel says its actions, including the use of live ammunition, are necessary to defend the border and stop mass breaches. It accuses Hamas, with which it has fought three wars since 2008, of seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out militant attacks.

On Thursday, Israel’s high court of justice unanimously denied the petitions presented by a number of human rights groups against the rules of engagement for troops operating on the Gaza border. It ruled that Israel was not only entitled to fight against militant groups “trying to exploit the rules to hurt its citizens and soldiers”, but that it was obligated to do so.

Meanwhile, according to Israeli media reports, Israel is considering a plan drawn up by Qatar and Egypt for a long-term cessation of hostilities with Hamas after giving up on its demand that Hamas demilitarise and that the Palestinian Authority replace it in ruling Gaza.

Under the terms of the proposed deal, Israel will significantly ease its blockade of Gaza in exchange for the complete cessation of rocket fire and of the digging by militant groups of cross-border tunnels.

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