At least 130 Gazans hit by Israeli gunfire: Palestinian ministry

Medics evacuate a wounded youth from near the fence of the Gaza Strip border with Israel during a protest east of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. (AP)
Updated 20 October 2018
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At least 130 Gazans hit by Israeli gunfire: Palestinian ministry

  • Following calls to avoid an escalation in violence, the demonstrators largely kept their distance from the fortified frontier fence
  • More than 2 million Palestinians are packed into the narrow coastal enclave

GAZA CITY: At least 130 Palestinians were hit by Israeli gunfire Friday as thousands protested near Gaza’s border with Israel, the health ministry in the enclave said.
Following calls to avoid an escalation in violence, the demonstrators largely kept their distance from the fortified frontier fence.
But at least 130 Palestinians were injured by live fire in clashes with Israeli soldiers, the health ministry said.
An Israeli army spokesman told AFP that while most of the protesters stayed back from the fence, some came close and threw explosive devices and hand grenades at troops, while burning tires.
“The soldiers who were there responded with riot dispersal means, along with gunfire,” he said.
Since March, Palestinians have moved right up to the border fence every Friday and occasionally breached it, leading to clashes in which more than 200 Palestinians and one Israeli have been killed.
While thousands again gathered for the latest protests in northern Gaza, the demonstrators largely remained at least 100 meters (yards) from the border.
An AFP correspondent said Hamas security officials in at least one location were seen discouraging protesters from nearing the fence.
Kites and balloons equipped with incendiary devices were launched across the border into southern Israel, and the Israeli army said one of its aircraft targeted a group of men launching balloons.
An Egyptian security delegation visited the Gaza Strip on Thursday and encouraged Hamas leader Ismail Haniyah to calm the protests, an Egyptian official said.
A Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Egyptian security officials had held separate meetings in the past few days with Israeli counterparts and with Hamas leaders in an effort to prevent an escalation in violence.
United Nations envoy Nickolay Mladenov, in a tweet, also urged all sides “to exercise restraint, to proceed in a peaceful manner, and to avoid escalation.”
On Wednesday, two rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave at Israel, with one destroying a house in the southern city of Beersheba.
In response Israel ramped up armored forces along the Gaza border on Thursday and Israeli air strikes targeted around 20 Hamas targets in Gaza.
More than 2 million Palestinians are packed into the narrow coastal enclave. Israel pulled troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but maintains tight control of its land and sea borders. Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in the past decade.


France urged to suspend boat delivery to Libya over migrant concerns

Updated 25 April 2019
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France urged to suspend boat delivery to Libya over migrant concerns

  • The demand was laid out in a legal challenge that was filed at the administrative court in Paris on Thursday morning

PARIS: Eight international NGOs including Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) demanded on Thursday that France suspend the delivery of boats to Libya’s coast guard on concerns they would be used to intercept migrants.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly had in February agreed to donate six boats to the Libyan navy, under which the coast guard operates, in a move she said was aimed at helping them “in the fight against illegal immigration.”

But the offer angered rights groups who said they would be used to block migrant boats seeking to reach Europe, forcing those on board to return to war-torn Libya.

The demand was laid out in a legal challenge that was filed at the administrative court in Paris on Thursday morning.

In it, the groups demand “the suspension of the decision” until the court decides whether or not the donation is legal. The court has 48 hours to make a decision.

The NGOs believe forcing people to return to Libya would expose them to “serious human rights violations.” Massimo Moratti, regional director for research at Amnesty International, said the pledge to deliver boats to the Libyan coast guard was “an unlawful and reckless decision.”

He said it was all the more dangerous at a time when fighting has intensified after Eastern commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on the capital Tripoli earlier this month.

“Doing it now, as the armed conflict in Libya escalates, is even more callous and irresponsible,” Moratti said in a statement, warning the donation would make France “complicit” in trapping people inside the country.

The NGOs accused the coast guard of having a bad track record in respecting those in distress at sea, saying it should not be given the logistical means to step up such abuses.

The statement accused the coast guard of abuses including pushing those in distress back into the water, threatening them with weapons and firing toward them.

The six vessels, which are to be delivered in the coming weeks, are 12-meter, semi-rigid boats made by French specialist Sillinger.

Besides Amnesty and MSF, the legal petition was joined by France’s Human Rights League, immigrant support group GISTI, Lawyers Without Borders, migrant aid groups La Cimade and Migreurop and Italian research and aid group ASGI.