Gaza man killed by Israeli fire during border protest

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A Palestinian man was killed by Israeli gunfire on Thursday night, Gaza health officials said, during a violent protest along the Israeli border.

Hundreds of Palestinians took part in protests held at five locations, demanding an end to Israel’s 14-year blockade of Gaza.

The territory’s Hamas rulers have organized a series of similar protests over the past two weeks. In some cases they have turned violent, with the crowds burning tires and hurling explosives toward Israeli soldiers.

Palestinian health officials said Ahmad Saleh, 26, was fatally shot near Jabaliya, in the northern Gaza Strip.

Organizers released a photo of Saleh, wearing shorts and a black T-shirt standing on the beach. “May God accept you Ahmad as a martyr of the night disturbances,” said a caption.

Health officials said five other people were wounded by Israeli fire, including a 15-year-old boy in serious condition.

The Israeli military said that demonstrators hurled explosive devices, and soldiers responded with live fire.

Saleh became the third Palestinian to die in the recent protests, along with a 12-year-old boy and a Hamas militant. An Israeli sniper was killed when he was shot in the head at point-blank range by a protester.

Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade in 2007 after Hamas seized control of Gaza from the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority. The takeover came a year after Hamas defeated the rival Fatah movement, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, in parliamentary elections.

Israel says the blockade is needed to keep Hamas, an Islamic militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction, from arming. Critics say the closure, which has hit the local economy hard due to its travel and trade restrictions, amounts to collective punishment.

Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since 2008, most recently last May.

Israel tightened the blockade after the fighting and only this week lifted most of the measures as Egypt tries to broker a longer-term cease-fire. Israel has demanded that Hamas free two captive Israeli civilians and return the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers as part of a broader deal.

Hamas dismissed the latest Israeli measures as insufficient and has threatened to continue the demonstrations until the blockade is further eased. “Our position is that it is insufficient and is no substitute for broad measures that will achieve a real breakthrough in terms of life in Gaza,” the group said.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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