Israel kills Gaza volunteer medic, two others at Friday protest
A 40-year-old Palestinian hit by Israeli fire during protests on the Gaza border died of his wounds
A 40-year-old Palestinian hit by Israeli fire during protests on the Gaza border died of his wounds on Saturday following mass Friday protests that left scores wounded, taking the previous day's death toll to three – including a volunteer medic.
The 40-year old was among more than 130 Palestinians wounded by Israeli bullets during Friday's protests, even as an informal truce agreed after a deadly flare-up between Gaza's ruling Hamas and the Israeli army largely held.
The health ministry identified the dead man as Ahmed Abu Lulu and said he was shot in a section of the border east of the southern city of Rafah where two other Palestinians were also killed.
The ministry identified them as Ali al-Alul, 55, and volunteer medic Abdullah al-Qatati, 21, who was shot in the head by Israeli forces. The ministry said that 131 of the wounded were taken to local hospitals and of those 85 were wounded by live fire. Five, including Mr Abu Lulu, were in serious condition.
A few thousand protesters had gathered in different locations along the border, setting tyres ablaze and throwing stones, but there were fewer people demonstrating than in previous weeks, AFP correspondents said.
Palestinians have been demonstrating for nearly five months as part of the “march of return”, weekly protests against Israel’s blockade of the strip spurred by the US move of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The Israeli army claimed a grenade was thrown at troops guarding the border with northern Gaza without causing any casualties. It said troops responded with tank fire against two Hamas posts. Soldiers fired tear gas at demonstrators as well as firing live rounds.
But the border was otherwise calm after a deal to end all rocket fire into Israel and air strikes on the Gaza Strip appeared to go into effect around midnight local time on Thursday.
There was no official confirmation from Israel or Gaza's ruling Hamas but there were no fresh air strikes on Friday.
Egypt said Thursday that it had been working with Israel and Hamas since Wednesday to prevent an escalation and continued attacks on the Strip. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday reportedly instructed the army to prepare for "every possibility," an Israeli security official said the possibility of a full-fledged military operation in Gaza had now decreased.
There have been reports that President Mahmood Abbas’s visit to Doha last week as part of negotiations between Palestinians and Israel over a longer-term peace deal and possibly reviving talks with Hamas about restoring ties between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, quoting an unnamed diplomatic source, said: “the cease-fire is not part of a wider agreement being negotiated between the two parties.”
The end of airstrikes and rocket fire bring to a close three days of clashes between Hamas, its allies and Israel. The fighting was sparked when Israeli tank fire killed two Hamas military members who it accused of firing towards soldiers.
Maj Gen Herzi Halevi, the head of the army’s Southern Command, later said in a statement that the military had concluded the strike was made in error. "[The men] were not shooting … at a border fence patrol of the Rotem battalion of the Givati infantry brigade”, Maj Gen Halevi said. “The shooting was part of a drill being observed by senior Hamas leaders in the northern Gaza Strip. The army has sent messages to Hamas via Egypt acknowledging the error”.
Fighting escalated on Thursday as extensive Israeli raids hit Gaza as Hamas and its allies fired more than 180 rockets and mortar rounds on Wednesday night.
It was one of the most serious escalations since the 2014 Gaza war and followed months of rising tensions.
Three Palestinians were killed in the Israeli strikes, including a pregnant woman and her 18-month-old daughter. Seven Israelis were wounded by Palestinian rocket fire. A five-story building in Gaza City housing a cultural centre and offices of Egyptian expats in the strip was destroyed. Israel claimed the building was being used by Hamas. Officials from the group later said that their nearby offices were untouched.
The European Union said Gaza and Israel were "dangerously close" to a new conflict and called for urgent de-escalation to keep civilians from further risk.
UK Minister of State for the Middle East Alistair Burt tweeted that he was “Concerned by deteriorating situation in Gaza/Israel and civilian casualties, inc. reports of death of pregnant woman and 1yr old child in Gaza.”
At least 168 Palestinians have been killed since the border protests began on March 30.
Most were killed by Israeli fire during the protests but others died in air strikes.
One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.
Head of Israel’s Labor Party, Avi Gabbay, hit out at Netanyahu and Israeli Defence minister Avigdor Lieberman, accusing them of derailing talks of a longer term settlement and emboldening hardline groups.
"Netanyahu and Lieberman! You have failed!" Mr Gabbay tweeted. "Is this the way to hold a negotiation?
Leader of the opposition in the Knesset, Tzipi Livni, said that "this government has weakened the moderates and strengthened the radicals, four years of wasting time."
Updated: August 11, 2018 06:37 PM