Three Palestinians reported killed in Gaza border protests
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Three Palestinians reported killed in Gaza border protests

8,000 Palestinians gather on border, throwing rocks and incendiary devices at soldiers; deaths are first Gaza fatalities since last month’s ceasefire

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones during a demonstration near the border between Israel and Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 21, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)
A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones during a demonstration near the border between Israel and Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 21, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Three Palestinians, including a 16-year-old, were reported killed on Friday by Israeli fire during border protests and clashes east of Gaza City, the Hamas-run health ministry said, as some 8,000 Palestinians protested along the border.

The ministry identified the teen as Mohammed al-Jahjuh and said he was “hit in the neck by a bullet (fired) by Israeli soldiers.”

Abdelaziz Abu Sharia, 28, and Naher Yasin, 40, died from their wounds after being shot in separate incidents along the heavily fortified frontier with Israel, officials said.

The ministry said 46 others were wounded. There were no reports of casualties on the Israeli side.

The Israeli army said around 8,000 Palestinians had gathered along the border, burning tires and launching rocks and incendiary devices toward soldiers, which did not reach the troops. It said it had opened fire “according to operational procedures” in place.

Army radio said these were the first Palestinian fatalities in Gaza protests since a ceasefire deal went into effect last month.

A Palestinian protester carries a national flag during a demonstration near the border between Israel and Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 21, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The protests were held at various locations along the border under the banner of Hamas’s ongoing “March of Return” demonstrations.

The weekly protests come after several weeks of relative calm in Gaza. However, the last two weeks have seen a spike in terror attacks in the West Bank, some of which were claimed by Hamas.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had issued a warning to Hamas.

“I conveyed a clear message to Hamas — we won’t accept a situation of a truce in Gaza and terror in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting, using the biblical name for the West Bank.

Since March, Palestinians have been holding weekly “March of Return” protests on the border, which Israel has accused Gaza’s Hamas rulers of using to carry out attacks on troops and attempt to breach the security fence. Hamas, an Islamist terror group, seeks to destroy Israel.

Palestinian paramedics transport a protester on a stretcher during a demonstration near the border between Israel and Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 21, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Israel has demanded an end to the violent demonstrations along the border in any ceasefire agreement.

The border protests come weeks after Hamas and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza engaged in the heaviest battle with Israel since the 2014 war. Since then, Hamas has largely been keeping protesters at a distance from the fence.

After an Israeli special forces operation in Gaza was exposed, and an Israeli soldier and seven Hamas gunmen were killed in the ensuing firefight, some 500 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel over the course of November 12-13 — more than twice the rate at which they were launched during the 2014 conflict.

The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted over 100 of them. Most of the rest landed in open fields, but dozens landed inside Israeli cities and towns, killing one person, injuring dozens and causing significant property damage.

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