Hamas: Gaza protests restrained to give diplomacy a chance
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Gaza’s Hamas rulers scaled down protests at the territory’s border fence with Israel as Egypt stepped up efforts to restore calm, making Friday the quietest day of months of deadly confrontations.
Only a few thousand Palestinians rallied at the frontier. Israeli gunfire wounded seven protesters, health officials said — the lowest casualty figures reported since the weekly demonstrations began in March. No attempts to breach the border fence were reported.
Hamas wants a cease-fire and an end to a crippling 11-year-old blockade on Gaza. It threatened to intensify the weekly protests if the Egyptian-led diplomacy fails.
“We are following the efforts and the (Israeli) occupation is being tested,” said Khalil al-Hayya, a senior official from the Islamic militant group.
“If lifting the siege is late, you will experience in the winter what you did not see in the summer,” he said, in a warning directed at Israel.
Israel and Egypt largely sealed their borders with Gaza after Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007, citing security concerns.
On Friday, Egyptian mediators in SUVs drove by two protest locations for the first time. The envoys from the Egypt’s intelligence service have been talking separately with Hamas and Israel for months. Cairo hopes to restore calm and revive national Palestinian talks to reconcile Hamas with the West Bank-based administration of President Mahmoud Abbas.
Previous demonstrations have turned violent and deadly, with protesters burning large piles of tires and using the smoke as a screen to hurl rocks, firebombs and grenades at Israeli troops stationed behind the fence.
More than 160 Palestinians have been killed since the demonstrations began in March. A Palestinian sniper also shot dead an Israeli soldier in July.