Gaza protest toll rises to three: ministry

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot next to burning tires during a demonstration at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on August 10, 2018. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 11 August 2018
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Gaza protest toll rises to three: ministry

  • 131 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli bullets during Friday’s protests
  • The Israeli army said a grenade was thrown at troops guarding the border with northern Gaza without causing any casualties

GAZA CITY: A 40-year-old Palestinian hit by Israeli fire on the Gaza border died of his wounds on Saturday, taking the death toll from protests the previous day to three, the territory’s health ministry said.
He was among at least 131 Palestinians wounded by Israeli bullets during Friday’s protests, even as an informal truce ending a deadly flare-up between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and the Israeli army largely held.
In all 307 Palestinians were wounded on Friday, some by tear gas, including two journalists and five medics, the health ministry in the coastal enclave said.
It identified the man who died Saturday as Ahmed Abu Lulu, saying he was shot in a section of the border east of the southern city of Rafah, where the two other Palestinians were also killed.
The ministry had earlier identified the other two as Ali Al-Alul, 55, and volunteer medic Abdullah Al-Qatati, 21.
Funerals for all three Palestinians took place on Saturday and were attended by thousands of mourners.
Doctors and first responders were among the mourners, in a show of solidarity for Qatati.
On Friday, a few thousand protesters gathered at various locations along the border, setting tires ablaze and throwing stones, but in smaller numbers than in previous weeks, AFP correspondents said.
The Israeli army said a grenade was thrown at troops without causing any casualties, and that soldiers responded with tank fire at two Hamas posts.
But the border was otherwise calm after a reported deal to end all rocket fire into Israel and air strikes on Gaza appeared to take effect around midnight (2100 GMT) on Thursday.
There was no official confirmation of the truce from Israel or Hamas, but there were no fresh air strikes on Friday.
Thursday had seen extensive Israeli raids in retaliation for the launching of more than 180 rockets and mortar rounds by Hamas and its allies on Wednesday night.
It was one of the most serious escalations since the 2014 Gaza war and followed months of rising tensions.
Three Palestinians were killed in the Israeli strikes, including a pregnant woman and her 18-month-old daughter. Seven Israelis were wounded by Palestinian rocket fire.
The European Union said Gaza and Israel were “dangerously close” to a new conflict and called for urgent efforts to protect civilians.
At least 168 Palestinians have been killed since the border protests began on March 30, with most succumbing to Israeli fire during demonstrations. Others have died in air strikes.
Over the same period, one Israeli soldier has been shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.
Separately on Saturday, the Israeli army carried out four drone attacks, targeting Palestinians who were flying balloons carrying incendiary devices across the border into Israel, the military said.
Two Palestinians were injured, one of them seriously, Gaza’s health ministry said.
Israeli soldiers also opened fire at some 50 Palestinian fishing boats that sailed off Gaza’s northern coast on Saturday to protest Israel’s sea and land blockade of the enclave, the fishermen’s union said.
It said 200 Palestinians were on the boats but that no one was hurt in the incident.
Israel, which has imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza for a decade, prevents boats from the enclave sailing further than six nautical miles offshore.
In July it further reduced that zone to three miles after scores of kites carried firebombs across the border to burn Israeli farmland.


UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians

Updated 18 August 2018
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UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday presented four options aimed at boosting the protection of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories, from sending UN rights monitors and unarmed observers to deploying a military or police force under UN mandate.
The proposals were contained in a report requested by the General Assembly in response to a surge of violence in Gaza, where 171 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since late March.
The UN chief stressed that for each of the options, cooperation by Israel and the Palestinians would be necessary. It remained unlikely however that Israel would agree to the proposals.
In the 14-page report, Guterres proposed:
• Providing a “more robust UN presence on the ground” with rights monitors and political officers to report on the situation.
• Pouring in more UN humanitarian and development aid to “ensure the well-being of the population.”
• Creating a civilian observer mission that would be present in sensitive areas such as checkpoints and near Israeli settlements, with a mandate to report on protection issues.
• Deploying an armed military or police force, under a UN mandate, to provide physical protection to Palestinian civilians.
A UN mandate for a protection force would require a decision from the Security Council, where the United States could use its veto power to block a measure opposed by Israel.
A small European-staffed observer mission was deployed in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1994, but Israel has since rejected calls for an international presence in flashpoint areas.
In the report, Guterres said the United Nations was already undertaking many protection initiatives but that “these measures fall short” of the concerns raised in a General Assembly resolution adopted in June.
In that measure, the 193-nation assembly condemned Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza and tasked Guterres with the drafting of proposals for “an international protection mechanism” for the Palestinians.
Guterres argued that a political solution to the conflict was needed to address the safety of Palestinians but that “until such a solution is achieved, member-states may further explore all practical and feasible measures that will significantly improve the protection of the Palestinian civilian population.”
“Such measures would also improve the security of Israeli civilians.”
On Friday, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians taking part in protests along the Gaza border and 270 other Palestinians were wounded.
Israel has defended its use of live ammunition in Gaza by invoking its right to self-defense. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.
“The targeting of civilians, particularly children, is unacceptable,” Guterres said in the report, adding that “those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable.”
UN efforts to ensure the well-being of Palestinians must strengthened, he added, singling out the funding crisis at the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA as being “of particular concern.”
UNRWA is facing a major budget shortfall after President Donald Trump’s administration decided to withhold its contribution to the agency.
The report released to all UN member-states comes amid a vacuum in Middle East peace efforts as European and other big powers await a peace plan from the Trump administration that has been under discussion for months.
UN diplomats have recently begun questioning whether the US peace plan will ever materialize.
The United Nations has warned that a new war could explode in Gaza.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including its Hamas rulers, have fought three wars since 2008.