Some 6,000 Palestinians protested violently in several spots along the Gaza border on Friday, in the 66th consecutive week of protests there. This came even as an Egyptian delegation arrived in the Gaza Strip for the first time in two months in hopes of preventing the collapse of ceasefire understandings.
According to the IDF, the military responded to the violence by using riot-dispersal means. A number of Palestinians were seen crossing the border fence into Israeli territory from the southern part of the territory and immediately returned.
The army said several explosive devices were thrown at troops. During the riots, an IDF jeep was hit by a Molotov cocktail thrown by protesters. There were no reported IDF injuries.
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 34 protesters were injured, including a 17-year-old who was seriously wounded after being hit in the stomach by IDF fire.
Thousands of Gazans have been protesting along the security fence on a weekly basis taking part in the March of Return demonstrations, which began March 30, 2018.
US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt posted a tweet on Friday relating to the Gaza protests.
“Hamas seems stuck in 1967 [with] today’s march entitled: No Negotiation, No Conciliation, No Recognition of the [Israeli] Entity. It’s similar to [the] infamous Khartoum Resolution, aka, ‘The Three Nos’; No peace [with] no recognition of/no negotiations [with] Israel. How has that worked out so far?”
The Khartoum Resolution merged from the Sudanese capital following a meeting of eight Arab leaders in August 1967, two months after the Six Day War, in which they called for the continued struggle against Israel and “No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.”
On Friday evening, meanwhile, a mortar fired from Gaza landed in the nearby Eshkol Regional Council a day after a Hamas official was killed by IDF troops in a “misunderstanding.” The mortar landed in an open area and caused no damage or injuries.
The mortar fire came after the IDF reinforced its Iron Dome batteries in the South on Friday in anticipation of possible rocket fire from the Strip in response to the Hamas official’s killing.
The man, identified as 28-year-old Mahmoud Ahmad Sabri al-Adham, was shot by troops as he approached the border fence in the northern Gaza Strip.
Hamas said Adham’s death would not go “unpunished” and that Israel would bear the consequences of this criminal act.
“Israel intentionally fired at one of our members while he was carrying out his duties,” the group added.
Israel later apologized for the incident, saying it was a “misunderstanding” and that troops had fired on him after he had been “misidentified.”
The apology was not accepted by Hamas, with senior official Fathi Hamad saying, “We do not accept the enemy’s apology for the killing of the martyr Mahmoud al-Adham, and we’ll avenge him. We give the Zionist enemy a week to implement the understandings.”
Hamad warned that the group “has the means to act” if Israel does not carry out the “understandings.”
“We are on the verge of an explosion not only in the Gaza Strip, but also in the West Bank and abroad,” he added.
An Egyptian delegation, headed by senior General Intelligence Service officials Ayman Badi and Ahmed Abdel Khaleq, arrived in Gaza on Friday to forestall any increase in violence. They were briefed by Hamas leaders about what they said was Israel’s slow-paced implementation of the ceasefire understandings reached earlier this year under the auspices of Egypt and the UN.
Israel has offered additional measures to ease restrictions on the Gaza Strip.
The Egyptian officials held talks in the Gaza Strip with Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh, Yahya Sinwar, Khalil al-Haya and Rouhi Mushataha.
Last week, the Egyptian team met in Ramallah with senior Fatah officials and discussed ways of ending the dispute between the Palestinian ruling faction and Hamas.
Hamas said its leaders presented the Egyptian officials with a “detailed briefing about the Israeli enemy’s violations against the Gaza Strip and its foot-dragging regarding the implementation of the [ceasefire] understandings.”
The statement said the Hamas leaders stressed during the talks with the Egyptians that Israel understands the Gaza-based groups won’t accept anything less than lifting the blockade on the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.
The Hamas leaders also affirmed the importance of developing ties between Hamas and Egypt to “ease the suffering of the residents of the Gaza Strip.”
On the issue of “reconciliation” between Hamas and Fatah, the rulers of the Gaza Strip presented the Egyptians with a “positive stance” and said they were “ready to pursue efforts to achieve Palestinian national unity.” It said Palestinian unity was needed at this stage to face the challenges and dangers targeting the Palestinian cause, first and foremost to US President Donald Trump’s plan for peace in the Middle East.
In June, the Trump administration unveiled the economic portion of the plan, which has been rejected by Fatah and Hamas as a “conspiracy to liquidate the Palestinian cause and national rights.”
Hani al-Thawabta, a senior official with the PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said on Saturday that the Egyptian intelligence officials told the Hamas leaders that Israel was offering a series of measures to ease restrictions on the Gaza Strip.
The measures, he told the Palestinian daily Al-Quds, include the delivery of medicine and medical aid to the Gaza Strip, as well as returning more fishermen boats seized by the IDF in recent years.
In addition, Thawabta said, Israel was offering to increase the number of permits for merchants and laborers to enter Israel to 5,000 from 3,500.
He said the Hamas leaders were told that a Qatari delegation would arrive in the Gaza Strip on July 18 to discuss ways of solving the electricity crisis and the establishment of a hospital and industrial zone.
The Egyptian officials also carried a message from Fatah demanding that all ministries in the Gaza Strip be handed over to the Palestinian Authority government headed by Mohammed Shtayyeh, the PFLP official revealed.
Once Hamas accepts this demand, PA President Mahmoud Abbas will convene a meeting of leaders of all Palestinian factions to discuss the formation of a Palestinian unity government and holding long-overdue presidential and parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the official added.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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