Palestinians mourn woman killed in Gaza border clashes

Palestinians mourn woman killed in Gaza border clashes

Amal al-Taramsi, 43, first fatality of year on restive border and third women killed since weekly protests began in March

Relatives of Amal al-Taramsi mourn during her funeral in Gaza City, January 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Relatives of Amal al-Taramsi mourn during her funeral in Gaza City, January 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

GAZA CITY — Hundreds of Palestinians gathered Saturday for the funeral of a woman killed by Israeli forces during a protest near the perimeter fence, this year’s first fatality from the weekly mass demonstrations.

Amal al-Taramsi, a 43-year-old activist who had regularly attended the protests, was shot the day before. Al-Mezan, a Palestinian human rights group, said she was around 200 meters from the fence when she was shot in the head.

The Israeli military said some 13,000 Palestinians participated in riots along the Gaza border Friday, throwing rocks, fire bombs and hand-grenades at Israeli troops, burning tires and trying to breach the security fence.

Soldiers responded with tear gas and, in some cases, live fire, the army said.

Taramisi was the third woman killed since the protests were launched last spring, along with a 21-year-old medic and a 14-year-old girl.  A total of 186 Palestinians and an Israeli soldier have been killed in the weekly bouts of violence, which began in last March.

Amal’s mother, Halima, sobbed as she sat in the corner of her home waiting for her daughter’s body, which was wrapped with a Palestinian flag.

The Israelis “should leave our lands and let us alone to live in freedom,” she said, urging Palestinian factions to unite against Israel and US President Donald Trump.

The mother of Amal al-Taramsi ,43, attends her daughter’s funeral in Gaza City on January 12, 2019. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Gaza’s Hamas rulers have orchestrated the protests, in part to call for the lifting of a crippling decade-long Israeli and Egyptian blockade.

Israel maintains that the blockade is needed to keep Hamas and other terror groups in the Strip from rearming or building attack tunnels. An Islamist terror group that seized control of Gaza in 2007, Hamas seeks to destroy Israel.

Hours after the funeral, a rocket was shot from Gaza at Israel, landing in an open area. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

The Israeli army responded with airstrikes in Gaza, targeting what it called “underground infrastructure” belonging to Hamas. There were no reports of injuries.

“Hamas is responsible for all events that transpire in the Gaza Strip and emanate from it,” the army said in a statement.

Israeli forces have shot and wounded thousands of Palestinians since the protests began, according to figures supplied by the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. A number of fellow protesters attended Saturday’s funeral in wheelchairs or walking with crutches.

The demonstrations draw Palestinians of all ages, but most gather several hundred meters from the fence. It’s usually young men who approach the barrier, hurling rocks and firebombs at Israeli forces on the other side, who respond with tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and live fire.

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones at Israeli forces across the border fence, during clashes following a demonstration along the border with Israel east of Gaza City on January 11, 2019. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Israel accuses Hamas of using the protests as a cover for attacks and says it only uses force to defend its borders.

Egyptian mediators have visited Gaza in recent days to try and shore up a two-month-old cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, who have fought three wars since 2008 and were nearly embroiled in a fourth in November.

Israel has allowed Qatar to deliver $15 million in aid each month since November to pay the salaries of Hamas civil servants. The latest batch was delayed after a brief flare-up of violence earlier this month, but is widely expected to be delivered if the situation remains calm. The weekly protests have been more subdued since the understandings were reached.

Palestinian protesters run through tear gas fumes during clashes with Israeli forces during a demonstration along the border with Israel east of Gaza City on January 11, 2019. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

The funds are meant ostensibly to pay the group’s civilian workers, though some Israeli officials — including former defense minister Avigdor Liberman — maintain the money will be used for Hamas’s terrorist activities.

Qatar has also bought fuel for Gaza’s solo power plant, helping to reduce power outages. Electricity is still only available for a few hours every day, and the tap water in Gaza is undrinkable. The blockade has devastated the local economy in Gaza, where unemployment exceeds 50 percent.

Last week’s clash began when Palestinian terrorists flew an explosive device into Israeli territory from Gaza. The device exploded as it was being searched by a bomb disposal robot, police said.

Responding to the airborne explosive attack, Israel struck a number of Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip. Hours later, terrorists in the Strip fired a rocket at southern Israel, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. The Israel Defense Forces then carried out a second round of airstrikes in Gaza.

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