Gaza border protest more subdued as Egypt pushes for calm

GAZA (Reuters) - Crowds of Palestinians protested along the Gaza-Israel border on Friday but in fewer numbers and with less fury than has been seen for months as Egyptian mediators worked to lower tension along the frontier.

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Israeli troops wounded seven people when they opened fire on protesters but there were no fatalities, Gaza health officials said. The Israeli military confirmed it had shot at them.

Nearly 220 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during almost seven months of protests, according to Gaza figures.

Palestinians say they are protesting against Israel’s blockade of the territory and in support of a right for Palestinian refugees to return to land lost during Israel’s founding in 1948.

The weekly protests in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip began in March and at times have attracted tens of thousands of people.

But on Friday, when Egyptian officials, who have been shuttling between Israel and Gaza, made a rare visit to the frontier, just several thousand showed up.

Protestors still set fire to tires but fewer in number.

The Israeli military, which usually says Palestinians attack the border fence during the protest, said that while there were indeed disturbances, much of the crowd kept their distance.

A Palestinian official familiar with the Egyptian mediation said the goal was to end the protests and in return secure an easing of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza.

Israel accuses Hamas of orchestrating the demonstrations to provide cover for attacks and distract from Gaza’s economic plight, allegations it denies.

Hamas seized control of Gaza from Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007 and has since fought three wars with Israel, most recently in 2014.

Writing by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Angus MacSwan