Nation & World

Palestinian killed at Israel-Gaza border protest after truce

Israeli gunfire killed one Palestinian at a weekly demonstration along the Gaza-Israel border fence, Gaza officials said Friday, in the first escalation after a cease-fire deal ended a bloody bout of fighting and saw Israel reopening the fishing zone off the Gaza coast.

Last weekend's spate of violence, which killed four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including 10 militants, was the worst combat since a 2014 war between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers.

Gaza's health ministry said that 24-year-old Abdullah Abed al-Al was killed and 30 Palestinians injured by Israeli fire in the border demonstration, including a medic who was moderately wounded by a gunshot to the head.

Hamas has orchestrated the weekly protests since March 2018, primarily to draw international attention to the dire living conditions. A crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade was imposed on the territory, after Hamas seized control of Gaza twelve years ago.

More than 200 Palestinians and an Israeli soldier have been killed during the yearlong marches. The protests have often devolved into cycles of cross-border conflicts quickly defused with short-lived truces mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations.

On May 15, protest organizers are calling for a massive border march to mark the 71st anniversary of what Palestinians call the "Nakba," or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in the 1948 war that led to the establishment of Israel.

This year, Nakba day protests fall during the week of the hugely popular Eurovision Song Contest in Israel, putting Israeli officials on edge. The contest will draw thousands of foreign visitors to Tel Aviv.

Earlier Friday, COGAT, the Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, said Israel would expand the Palestinian fishing zone to a maximum of 12 nautical miles to "prevent the deterioration in humanitarian conditions" in the blockaded Strip.

The cease-fire deal is believed to loosen tight restrictions on goods and people coming in and out of Gaza, as well as provide economic aid and development programs to the territory, which has suffered for years from soaring unemployment and deepening poverty.

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