Gazans make a deadly rush to fence at Israel border
The fence-line shooting showcased the confusion that remains over the Israeli-Hamas cease-fire deal announced Wednesday in Cairo.
The Associated Press
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. The fighting killed 166 Palestinians, including scores of civilians, and six Israelis.
In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, the Palestinian U.N. observer Riyad Mansour said Israel's cease-fire violations and other illegal actions risk undermining the calm that was just restored.
The episode showcased the confusion that remains over the cease-fire deal announced Wednesday in Cairo. While Hamas officials boasted about the concessions they say they exacted from Israel, Israeli officials downplayed the deal, saying nothing had been agreed beyond the immediate cessation of hostilities.
On Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said dismissively that Hamas' main achievement so far was getting a document that was typed rather than handwritten. In substance, Israelis said they agreed to discuss the border and other issues, but that those talks had not begun.
That was clearly not the understanding of the hundreds of Gazans who thought they would have access to a strip of fertile land that had for years been beyond their reach.
Palestinians flocked to the fence Thursday and Friday because their leaders said the cease-fire eased what they call Israel's "siege" on Gaza, including restrictions on movement in the so-called buffer zone, a 1,000-foot strip on Gaza's eastern and northern borders.
Hamas leaders also told their people that Israel would ease restrictions on fishing off the coast and the passage of people and goods through border crossings.
But an Israeli government official said Friday that while Israel had agreed to discuss the issues with the Egyptian sponsors of the cease-fire, its policy had not yet changed.
In the past, Israeli soldiers routinely opened fire on those who crossed into the buffer zone.
In one incident captured on video Friday, 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 ongoing negotiations in Cairo, said the violence would have no effect on the cease-fire.
Israel's military said roughly 300 Palestinians approached the security fence at different points, tried to damage it and cross into Israel.
Soldiers fired warning shots in the air, but after the Palestinians refused to move, troops fired at their legs, the military said.
Material from The New York Times is included in this report.