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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Israeli minister to ban Hamas inmates from watching World Cup

Around 6,500 Palestinians are detained in Israeli prisons

Palestinian demonstrators hold up signs with slogans in Hebrew reading "soldiers, we are not objects, we are humans", "Gaza is the biggest and ugliest prison in the world", "Gaza is a Nazi victim", and "humanitarian disaster in Gaza, we want a solution", during a demonstration near the border with Israel east of Gaza City on May 13, 2018. Mahmud Hams / AFP
Palestinian demonstrators hold up signs with slogans in Hebrew reading "soldiers, we are not objects, we are humans", "Gaza is the biggest and ugliest prison in the world", "Gaza is a Nazi victim", and "humanitarian disaster in Gaza, we want a solution", during a demonstration near the border with Israel east of Gaza City on May 13, 2018. Mahmud Hams / AFP

An Israeli official has said he wants to ban Palestinian prisoners who are members of the Hamas movement from watching the upcoming Fifa World Cup in Russia.

“I have no intention of letting Hamas members who are detainees in our prisons enjoy the World Cup matches while we have Israeli hostages and soldiers in the Gaza Strip,” the Ynet news sited quoted Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan as saying on Sunday.

Mr Erdan asked the Israel Prison Service to “put pressure” on jailed members of Hamas, which is in control of the Gaza Strip.

Currently, prisoners have the right to watch television, but the minister is looking to change the regulation before the World Cup – which will take place from June 14 to July 15.

Prisoners who “support terrorism cannot benefit from a sporting competition which unites populations”, the minister said.

The bodies of two Israeli soldiers, who were killed in the 2014 Gaza war, are believed to be held by Hamas.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, around about 6,500 Palestinians are detained in Israeli prisons.

Mr Erdan’s move came after a series of weekly rallies led by Hamas in Gaza from March 30 onwards. Israeli forces killed at least 116 people in those protests, including several children, and wounded hundreds more. The deadliest day came on May 14, when at least 61 Palestinians were killed as tens of thousands of Gazans protested the US transfer of its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

On Monday, the Israeli military and Hamas traded fire across the Israeli-Gaza border. Israeli tank fire killed a Hamas fighter at one of the movement’s outposts in the enclave, while soldiers chased down two other Gazan fighters who tried to cross into Israel, the military said.

During their pursuit of the two Palestinians, who were armed with "knives, wire cutters and combustible material", the Israeli soldiers were shot at from inside the Gaza Strip, the military said in a statement.

"In response, an IDF (Israel Defense Forces) tank targeted an adjacent military observation post," it said.

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The two Palestinians who tried to breach the border were being held by Israel, the military said. None of the soldiers was injured.

On Sunday, Israeli shelling killed three militants from the Islamic Jihad, a smaller Gazan movement.

Gaza remains under an Israeli blockade of its air, sea and land. Egypt also restricts access at a land crossing. Economic conditions in the territory have been a major driver of the weekly rallies.

In a first, Palestinians are to launch a flotilla from the Gaza Strip in a bid to breach Israel’s naval blockade on Tuesday.

Organisers have kept the launch site of the main flotilla boat and its final destination hidden but have set a departure time of 1100 for the ships carrying patients needing medical care, students and university graduates

The boat also brings "dreams of our people and their aspirations for freedom", organiser Salah Abdul-Ati said in a press conference at Gaza City's port on the Mediterranean coast.

He called on the United Nations and other international bodies to protect the boat leaving from the enclave.

The attempt to breach the blockade comes ahead of the eighth anniversary of the Israeli raid on the Turkish-registered Mavi Marmara. Israeli commanders killed ten Turkish activists.

Israel announced Sunday it had begun working on a barrier off the Mediterranean coast to prevent the possibility of infiltrations by sea from Gaza Strip.

The "new and impenetrable" barrier being built off the Zikim beach, a few kilometres (miles) north of Gaza, is in effect a fortified breakwater topped with barbed wire, the defence ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said the breakwater – the first of its kind in the world – was expected to be ready by the end of 2018.