Palestinians bury 7 killed in latest flare-up in Gaza Strip


KHAN YOUNIS: Thousands of Gazans on Saturday thronged the funerals of seven people killed by Israeli troops during mass protests the previous day, chanting anti-Israel and anti-US slogans and calling for revenge.
The coastal strip’s ruling Hamas militant group, meanwhile, dispatched a delegation to Egypt in a desperate new attempt to ease a crippling blockade on the Palestinian territory.
Friday’s violence was the deadliest day of protests in nearly four months. Among the dead was an 11-year-old boy, believed to be the youngest of 144 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire during the protests. Another boy, a 14-year-old, was also among the seven killed.
The Hamas-orchestrated protests were launched last March in large part to press for an end to the blockade, imposed by Israel and Egypt after the Islamic militant group took control of Gaza in 2007. The blockade has ravaged Gaza’s economy, and with Egyptian-mediated cease-fire efforts deadlocked, Hamas has vowed to step up the protests.
Israel, which has fought three wars against Hamas, accuses the group of exploiting and endangering civilians by using the protests as cover for militant actions.
Responding to calls by Hamas, thousands of Gazans participated in Friday’s protests, burning tires and using the billowing thick smoke as a screen to hurl rocks and firebombs toward Israeli forces on the other side of the fence.
At one location in east Gaza City, where four of the seven were killed, hundreds of protesters breached the fence. Amateur videos showed them kneeling down and kissing the ground on the Israeli side as gunfire could be heard. Others posed on the fence, urging protesters to follow. The protesters were seen cutting through the fence and damaging it.