GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israeli troops fired on Gazans surging toward Israel’s border fence Friday, killing one person but leaving intact the fragile two-day-old cease-fire between Hamas and the Jewish state.
The truce, which calls for an end to Gaza rocket fire on Israel and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, came after eight days of cross-border fighting, the bloodiest between Israel and Hamas in four years.
In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, the Palestinian U.N. observer Riyad Mansour called the situation in Gaza “extremely fragile” and said Israel’s cease-fire violations and other illegal actions risk undermining the calm that was just restored.
Hundreds of Palestinians approached the border fence Friday in several locations in southern Gaza, testing expectations Israel would no longer enforce a 300-yard-wide no-go zone on the Palestinian side of the fence that was meant to prevent infiltrations into Israel. In the past, Israeli soldiers routinely opened fire on those who crossed into the zone.
In one incident captured by Associated Press video, several dozen Palestinians, most of them young men, approached the fence, coming close to a group of Israeli soldiers standing on the other side.
Some Palestinians briefly talked to the soldiers, while others appeared to be taunting them with chants of “God is Great” and “Morsi, Morsi,” in praise of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, whose mediation led to the truce.
At one point, a soldier shouted in Hebrew, “Go there, before I shoot you,” and pointed away from the fence, toward Gaza. The soldier then dropped to one knee, assuming a firing position. Eventually, a burst of automatic fire was heard, but it was not clear whether any of the casualties were from this incident.
Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said a 20-year-old man was killed and 19 people were wounded by Israeli fire near the border.
Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. observer, said Israeli forces fatally shot Anwar Abdulhadi Qudaih in the head and injured at least 19 other Palestinian civilians in a border area east of Khan Younis.
During the incidents, Hamas security tried to defuse the situation and keep the crowds away from the fence.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, a top Hamas official at the ongoing negotiations in Cairo, told the Associated Press that the violence would have no effect on the cease-fire.
The truce allowed both Hamas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step back from the brink of a full-fledged war. Over eight days, Israel’s aircraft carried out some 1,500 strikes on Hamas-linked targets, while Gaza fighters fired roughly the same number of rockets at Israel.
The fighting killed 166 Palestinians, including scores of civilians, and six Israelis. Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. envoy, said more than 1,230 Palestinians were injured, predominantly women and children.
Click here to comment on this story »