Palestinians killed as Israel strikes Gaza after shots fired at soldiers

Glen Norman
July 21, 2018

The protests are largely prompted by the Israeli-Egyptian blockade, which was imposed after the militant group assumed control of Gaza in 2007.

Later Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the United Nations and Egypt had helped negotiate a ceasefire, with an agreement reached "to return to the previous state of calm between the (Israeli) occupation and the Palestinian factions". Hamas, which controls the enclave, said three members of its military wing had been killed.

The source said that balloons and kites attached with incendiary devices, which Palestinians have been floating over the border for months to spark fires inside Israel, were not included in the agreement.

Earlier Friday, Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited Sderot, an Israeli town near Gaza that has been hard hit by Palestinian rockets over the years.

Earlier at least four Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces near the Gaza-Israel border, said Gaza's Health Ministry officials. At least 120 Gazans were wounded.

Hamas and Israel have announced a ceasefire following an escalation which left four Palestinians and an Israeli soldier dead, but the Israeli minister of foreign affairs warned of a "wide-scale" war on the Gaza Strip. The kites and balloons have started more than a thousand fires and torched more than 7,000 acres of fields, according to Israel's military.

"There has been no calm in Gaza for many, many decades", she said. "Those who want to provoke Palestinians and Israelis into another war must not succeed".

Israel says it is defending its sovereign border and accuses Hamas of using the protests as cover for attempts to breach the border fence and attack Israeli civilians and soldiers.

The tactic has become popular during the months-long Gaza border protests known as The Great March of Return, in which Israeli security forces have killed more than 140 Palestinians.

A written Israeli army statement said the army launched a large-scale assault targeting military points allegedly belonging to Hamas.

But more recently, some Gaza officials said the protests would end if Israel lifted an economic blockade of the Strip.

Explosions were seen across the coastal enclave on Friday evening and Israel said three rockets had been fired at its territory, two of which were intercepted.

Protesters demand the "right of return" to their homes and villages in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.

Khalil al-Hayya, Hamas's deputy chief in Gaza, said the kites would continue to fly.

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