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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 July 2018

Palestinian killed as Gaza protests against Israel enter fourth month  

136 Palestinians have been killed in border clashes over the past four months

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to throw back a tear gas canister towards Israeli forces during clashes after a demonstration on the border east of Gaza City on July 6, 2018. Said Khatib / AFP
A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to throw back a tear gas canister towards Israeli forces during clashes after a demonstration on the border east of Gaza City on July 6, 2018. Said Khatib / AFP

A Palestinian taking part in a border protest was killed on Friday, Gazan medical officials said, bringing the number of fatalities in the confrontations to 136 since March 30.

The Gaza Health Ministry said the 22-year-old died of a chest wound. It said Israeli shelling wounded eight people in the same location, east of Gaza City, although it was not clear whether the two incidents were linked.

Israel’s military denied shelling, saying troops used “riot dispersal means” including gunfire as they confronted 3,000 Palestinians at five points along the border fence, some rolling burning tires and throwing rocks, and that “a number of terrorists” approachedwith a bomb.

“The explosive device went off within the Gaza Strip and injured several Palestinians,” it said.

The Gaza Health ministry said up to 400 were wounded in Friday’s protests, 57 of them from live bullets.

There have been no serious Israeli casualties during the “Great March of Return” but big tracts of Israeli land have been ravaged by fires ignited by incendiary kites or helium balloons from Gaza.

Israel, facing international condemnation over its tactics, accuses Gaza’s Hamas rulers of orchestrating the sometimes violent protests to distract from their governance problems and provide cover for armed cross-border attacks.

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Home to two million Palestinians, more than half of them refugees and their descendents, Gaza has suffered deep poverty and infrastructure collapse under a 12-year blockade by Israel and Egypt aimed at curbing Hamas threats.

Protest organisers and Hamas have described the border protests as spontaneous outpourings of frustration. Hamas has failed to conclude months of power-sharing talks with its western-backed Palestinian political rivals to ease conditions in Gaza.

The Palestinian Centre of Policy and Survey Research, said on Wednesday that 74 percent of Palestinians believe the protests have not achieved their goals or have achieved little.

Its poll found 61 percent of Gazans believe Hamas is responsible for the “initiation and organisation” of the border protests.