Palestinian protester who was shot during Friday border clashes dies
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Palestinian protester who was shot during Friday border clashes dies

Hamas-run health ministry confirms death, saying it raises toll to 20; another Palestinian killed near fence earlier in Israeli airstrike

Palestinian protesters use slingshots to throw stones during clashes with Israeli forces at the Israel-Gaza border east of Gaza City on April 4, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)
Palestinian protesters use slingshots to throw stones during clashes with Israeli forces at the Israel-Gaza border east of Gaza City on April 4, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

A Palestinian protester who was hit by Israeli fire during border clashes last Friday has died of his injuries, the Hamas-run health ministry said on Thursday.

Shadi al-Kashif, 34, was shot in the head near the border in southern Gaza and had since been in critical condition, the ministry said. His death brings the toll from Friday’s clashes to 20, according to the ministry’s figures.

Earlier, the ministry confirmed a Palestinian was killed by an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza border. Health officials in Gaza’s Shifa hospital were working to identify him.

The Israeli army said the man was armed and approaching the border when he was targeted.

“The IDF will not allow any harm to the security of Israeli civilians and will continue to operate against terrorists who are involved in acts of terror,” the army said in a statement. The army would not immediately comment on what type of weapon the man was carrying.

The incident came as Palestinians prepared to again demonstrate along the Gaza security fence on Friday.

Ahead of the protests, Palestinians amassed tires that they planned to burn, which would create a smokescreen, shielding protesters — and, the IDF said it fears, terrorists — from the view of army snipers.

A Palestinian youth collects money and tires in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 4, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Palestinians also collected mirrors, which they hoped to use to blind and confuse the sharpshooters. Bulldozers and other heavy machines were used inside Gaza to build up berms for Palestinians to hide behind during the riots.

On Friday, over 30,000 Palestinians demonstrated along the Gaza border in what Israel describes as a riot orchestrated by the Hamas terrorist group, which rules Gaza, and what Palestinians say was supposed to be a peaceful protest.

Palestinian protestors run for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli security forces during clashes following a demonstration commemorating Land Day, near the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on March 30, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

There were discrepancies in Palestinian reports on the Gaza death toll from Friday. While Hamas claimed Monday that 18 had died, the official news agency of the Palestinian Authority had the number at 16. Israel has no official death toll figures. Over 1,000 were reported injured.

The IDF on Saturday named and detailed 10 of the dead as members of terror groups including Hamas. Hamas, an Islamist terror group that avowedly seeks to destroy Israel, had earlier acknowledged five of them were its members. Islamic Jihad later claimed an 11th.

IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said on Saturday that all those killed were engaged in violence. Manelis said on Friday evening that the army had faced “a violent, terrorist demonstration at six points” along the fence. He said the IDF used “pinpoint fire” wherever there were attempts to breach or damage the security fence.

On Tuesday,  another Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli forces as he broke through the Gaza security fence.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry identified the dead man as 25-year-old Ahmed Arafa, saying he was shot in the chest during clashes east of Bureij in central Gaza. The military wing of the DFLP (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine) terrorist group identified him as a member.

IDF footage showing a group of five Palestinian men damage and break through the Gaza security fence, before one of them is shot dead, during a protest in Bureij, in the central Gaza Strip, on April 3, 2018. (Screen capture)

Violent protests have been staged every day since Friday’s mass demonstration, though on a far smaller level, usually involving a few dozen people. Nevertheless, the army has remained on high alert in the area out of concerns that terror groups could capitalize on the tensions and carry out attacks.

The army said it used mostly less-lethal riot dispersal measures against the demonstrators — tear gas and rubber bullets — but used live rounds against those who sabotage the fence or otherwise presented a direct threat.

Israeli soldiers take aim as they lie on an earth barrier along the border with the Gaza Strip, near the southern Israeli kibbutz of Nahal Oz on March 30, 2018. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Following last Friday’s protests, Israeli officials said they were not fundamentally changing the army’s rules of engagement ahead of the expected demonstrations on Friday.

We have set clear rules of the game and we do not intend to change them. Anyone who approaches the fence risks his life

On Tuesday, the Walla news site reported that the army’s rules of engagement for soldiers would allow the use of live fire against someone with a weapon who gets within approximately 300 meters (1,000 feet) of the security fence. An unarmed person would be allowed within 100 meters (330 feet) of the border before soldiers opened fire.

Beyond that clarification, senior officials said the protocol would be the same as last week.

“We have set clear rules of the game and we do not intend to change them. Anyone who approaches the fence risks his life, and I would recommend that Gaza residents put their efforts not into protesting against Israel, but into regime change within the Strip,” Liberman said during a tour of Israeli communities just outside the coastal enclave.

The defense minister also defended the IDF’s use of live fire last week.

“It needs to be understood that the majority of the people killed were terrorists whom we know well, operatives in the military arm of Hamas, as well as in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. These weren’t innocent civilians who came as part of a civil protest,” he said.

On Monday, IDF Spokesperson Manelis similarly defended the army’s actions, blaming all the violence on Hamas. He too said the army would not be changing its policies.

“We will use the same forces and the same capabilities,” he said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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