Days after ceasefire, Gaza border demonstrations to resume
GAZA CITY (AP):
Palestinian organisers of the weekly demonstrations in the Gaza Strip along the Israeli border said they will hold another protest today - in a key test of this week's ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militant groups.
Tuesday's ceasefire ended the heaviest fighting between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers since a 2014 war.
The fighting was fueled in part by the demonstrations. Since late March, thousands of Gazans have joined the Hamas-led demonstrations in a bid to end a crippling Israeli blockade.
Protesters frequently lob grenades, flaming tires and firebombs toward Israeli troops, who respond with tear gas and live fire. Some 170 Palestinians, many of them unarmed, have been killed by Israeli fire. Israel says it is defending its border against militant attackers.
Hamas had lowered the intensity of the protests in recent weeks as United Nations. and Egyptian mediators made progress towards an unofficial agreement with Israel.
But then, this week's fighting erupted after a botched Israeli undercover military operation in Gaza.
Gaza militants fired 460 rockets into Israel, while the Israeli air force struck 160 targets in Gaza. The fighting left a total of 14 Palestinians, including 12 militants, dead. An Israeli officer was killed during the Gaza raid, while a Palestinian labourer who worked in Israel was killed in a rocket attack.
In their announcement, protest organisers in Gaza urged people to demonstrate today "to thank the resistance" for battling Israel.
But in statements on Facebook, organisers also urged demonstrators to stay away from the border fence, a sign that today's protest would be restrained.
In another sign of quiet, Hamas announced yesterday that Egyptian mediators had arrived in Gaza to work on promoting a deeper ceasefire arrangement with Israel.
Hamas and its supporters have celebrated the ceasefire as a victory against the powerful Israeli military.
In Israel, the ceasefire has triggered a political crisis. Israel's defence minister, who favoured a much harsher response, resigned to protest the truce, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could soon be forced to call an early election.