Israel reopens Gaza crossings after week of hostilities

Israel reopens Gaza crossings after week of hostilities

Kerry Wise
April 1, 2019

The ministry said Mohammed Saad died after being hit in the head with shrapnel caused by Israeli forces fire east of Gaza City. Since Hamas took over governance of Gaza by force in 2007, it has fought three devastating wars with Israel.

Almost 270 Palestinian demonstrators have been killed by Israeli army gunfire since Palestinians began holding regular demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone in March of past year.

Two Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces near the perimeter fence with Israel on Saturday, hours before thousands gathered for a protest there to mark the first anniversary of weekly protests along the Gaza Strip border, according to Palestinian medical officials. Another 316 Gazans were wounded.

More than 60 Palestinians were shot with live bullets, according to the health ministry.

On Saturday, Abdullatif al-Kanoo, a spokesman for Hamas, confirmed the agreement to Al Jazeera, saying Egyptian mediators "succeeded in extracting approvals" from Israel to ease restrictions on employment, fishing, electricity and aid from Qatar.

Since the first Great March of Return rallies, Israeli forces have killed almost 300 Palestinians in Gaza, 200 of them during unarmed protests, according to the Gaza-based human rights group Al Mezan. Another Palestinian was shot and killed in the early morning before the main demonstration began, as he took part in a late-night riot along the border.

It deployed soldiers along the border fence, who it said were ordered to resort to live fire only when absolutely necessary and when there was an imminent threat. "In addition, a number of grenades and explosive devices have been hurled at the Gaza Strip security fence", it said in a statement.

Protesters were marking the first anniversary of often violent weekly demonstrations in which around 200 Palestinians and an Israeli soldier have been killed.

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, said the group had received "positive signs" from the Egyptians.

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The Israeli military also used a loud sound machine to spray blue-colored water on demonstrators.

Israel goes to the polls in a keenly contested general election on April 9 in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a stiff challenge from centrist former military chief Benny Gantz.

Hamas announced an Egyptian-brokered truce that ended the exchange of fire. A Gaza rocket attack wounded seven Israelis north of Tel Aviv on Monday and, in response, Israel launched a wave of air strikes and ramped up its forces at the border.

Palestinians marked the 43rd anniversary of Land's Day on March 30 with mass marches and massive public events. Israel rejects that demand, saying that would eliminate its Jewish majority.

Israel seized Gaza in a 1967 war and pulled out its troops in 2005.

Analysts highlight desperate living conditions and lack of freedom of movement as driving forces behind the protests.

They are demanding a right to reclaim territory lost to Israel during the 1948-49 war, and the end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza.

This was especially notable in the UN Human Rights Council vote in which only one of 10 European Union member states voted in favor of adopting the commission of inquiry report.

Demonstrators threw stones and burned tyres, with Israeli troops using tear-gas and live rounds in response.