GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Israeli army killed a 25-year-old Palestinian along the volatile border with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, Palestinian health officials said, as youths staged violent protests demonstrations near the border fence.
Last week’s unrest heightened tensions and prompted Israel to bar thousands of Palestinian workers from entering the impoverished enclave.
Gaza’s health ministry said a man was killed by Israeli gunfire during Tuesday’s protest. Nine other people were injured, one seriously, according to the press release.
The Israeli army had no immediate comment.
The series of protests – disrupting weeks of calm around the separation barrier – comes during a sensitive holiday period in Israel that began with the Jewish New Year last week and continues until next week’s Sukkot holiday .
During Sukkot, large numbers of Jews are expected to visit Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The complex, which houses the Al-Aqsa mosque, is often a hotbed of violence.
Over the past week, dozens of Palestinians – burning tires and throwing explosive devices at Israeli soldiers – have flocked to the fence separating Israel from Gaza, which has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2007. Israel says that The blockade is necessary to prevent the ruling militant group Hamas from arming itself.
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Hamas claims the youths organized the protests in response to Israeli provocations. The activist group cites an increase in visits by nationalist Jewish activists to the contested holy site in Jerusalem. “As long as these provocations continue, the protests will continue,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem said.
Under long-standing provisions, Jews are allowed to visit the holy site, but not to pray there. The large number of visits, as well as scenes of some visitors praying quietly, have raised fears among Palestinians that Israel is trying to divide or even seize the site.
The week’s events are reminiscent of a bloody protest campaign organized by Hamas in 2018 and 2019, during which more than 350 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire. Those protests ended after mediators including Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations negotiated an unofficial deal in which Israel eased some economic restrictions on Gaza and allowed Qatar to provide tens of millions of dollars in monthly payments to needy families in Gaza and to Hamas salaries.
But this month, following the Qatari envoy’s visit to Gaza, the territory’s finance ministry announced it would have to cut the salaries of thousands of civil servants by almost half. The Qatari government press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Asked about the reduction in Qatari funds, Ghazi Hamad, a member of the group’s political council in Gaza, acknowledged that there were “problems” between Hamas and Qatar, without giving further details. He insisted the problems were “simple and solvable”. He would not say whether Hamas was using the border protests as a pressure tactic to extract concessions from Israel and Qatar.
In response to the protests, Israel closed the Erez Crossing, the only pedestrian crossing out of the enclave into Israel, to the approximately 18,000 Palestinians from Gaza who work in Israel. Jobs in Israel are in high demand and pay up to 10 times more than similar jobs in Gaza. Unemployment in the territory is around 50 percent.
Israel began granting work permits in recent years to help maintain calm in Gaza. But Israeli officials say the permits are contingent on a calm security situation. Earlier this month, Israel briefly closed Gaza’s main goods crossing after saying it discovered explosives in an outgoing shipment of clothing.
For Palestinians like Sami al-Amsi, head of Gaza’s main union, the latest closure means the loss of an economic lifeline. “It’s collective punishment,” he said.
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