November 24, 2012

Gazans test Israeli troops at border; one killed

The cease-fire remains intact despite the shooting as hundreds of Palestinians breach a buffer zone.

The Associated Press

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Israeli troops fired on Gazans surging toward Israel's border fence Friday, killing one person but leaving intact the fragile two-day-old cease-fire between Hamas and the Jewish state.

The truce, which calls for an end to Gaza rocket fire on Israel and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, came after eight days of cross-border fighting, the bloodiest between Israel and Hamas in four years.

In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, the Palestinian U.N. observer Riyad Mansour called the situation in Gaza "extremely fragile" and said Israel's cease-fire violations and other illegal actions risk undermining the calm that was just restored.

Hundreds of Palestinians approached the border fence Friday in several locations in southern Gaza, testing expectations Israel would no longer enforce a 300-yard-wide no-go zone on the Palestinian side of the fence that was meant to prevent infiltrations into Israel. In the past, Israeli soldiers routinely opened fire on those who crossed into the zone.

In one incident captured by Associated Press video, several dozen Palestinians, most of them young men, approached the fence, coming close to a group of Israeli soldiers standing on the other side.

Some Palestinians briefly talked to the soldiers, while others appeared to be taunting them with chants of "God is Great" and "Morsi, Morsi," in praise of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, whose mediation led to the truce.

At one point, a soldier shouted in Hebrew, "Go there, before I shoot you," and pointed away from the fence, toward Gaza. The soldier then dropped to one knee, assuming a firing position. Eventually, a burst of automatic fire was heard, but it was not clear whether any of the casualties were from this incident.

Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said a 20-year-old man was killed and 19 people were wounded by Israeli fire.

Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. observer, said Israeli forces fatally shot Anwar Abdulhadi Qudaih in the head and injured at least 19 other Palestinian civilians in a border area east of Khan Younis.

During the incidents, Hamas security tried to defuse the situation and keep the crowds away from the fence.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, a top Hamas official at the ongoing negotiations in Cairo, said that the violence would have no effect on the cease-fire.

The crowds were mainly made up of young men but also included farmers hoping to once again farm lands in the buffer zone. Speaking by phone from the buffer zone, 19-year-old Ali Abu Taimah said he and his father were checking three acres of family land that have been fallow for several years. "When we go to our land, we are telling the occupation (Israel) that we are not afraid at all," he said.

Israel's military said roughly 300 Palestinians approached the security fence at different points, tried to damage it and cross into Israel. Soldiers fired warning shots in the air, but after the Palestinians refused to move back, troops fired at their legs, the military said.

 

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