GAZA CITY: Gaza’s Hamas rulers led several thousand Palestinians in a protest along the frontier with Israel on Friday, in an apparent show of presence as Egyptian efforts intensify to broker a broad truce between the Islamic militant group and Israel.
A 25-year-old Palestinian was killed and 90 were wounded by Israeli army fire, Gaza health officials said.
It was the latest in a series of protests along Gaza’s perimeter fence with Israel, aimed in part at trying to break an 11-year-old border blockade.
Israel and Egypt sealed Gaza in 2007, after Hamas overran the territory.
Friday’s protest was attended by several exiled Hamas leaders who had entered Gaza a day earlier for meetings of the group’s decision-making political bureau.
“We want to break the siege on Gaza once and forever,” said Hussam Badran, one of the visiting Hamas leaders.
The political bureau is discussing Egyptian proposals for a truce with Israel and the UN-led reconstruction of Gaza, said Ghazi Hamad, a Gaza-based official in the group.
Meetings began on Thursday and will continue through Saturday, Hamad said. It marked the first time all members of the political bureau got together in Gaza, Hamas has said.
Over the years, truce deals have proven fragile, and it was not clear if the current efforts would succeed.
However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday called off a planned trip to South America and scheduled a meeting of his security Cabinet for Sunday to monitor Gaza developments.
Tensions along the Israel-Gaza fence have escalated since Hamas launched regular protests in the area in late March. Large turnout has also been driven by widespread desperation in Gaza, amid worsening conditions linked to the blockade.
Power is on for just a few hours a day, unemployment has sky-rocketed and poverty is widening.
Friday’s death brought to 156 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire since late March, including at least 118 in protests near the fence.
Others, among them armed Hamas militants, have been killed in attempted border attacks or in Israeli air strikes. Several thousand Gazans have been wounded by Israeli fire since March.