GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli troops killed two Palestinians and wounded scores of others taking part in weekly Gaza border protests on Friday, medics said, as Egyptian mediators tried to clinch a truce deal that would calm the impoverished enclave.
In Jerusalem’s Old City, another area that Palestinians want for a future state, Israeli police said they shot dead an Arab who attacked them with a knife after leaving a mosque complex.
After a more than four-month surge in confrontations over the Gaza Strip border, Israel this week eased its clampdown on the enclave’s commercial traffic and fishing. Cairo said it was finalizing details of a longer-term accommodation between Israel and the dominant Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
Some 20,000 people participated in Friday’s protests, which took place a few hundred meters from the fence, though dozens came closer, with some rolling burning tires, witnesses said.
Medics said Israeli gunfire killed two men and wounded at least 270 other Palestinians, 50 of them with live bullets.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said troops had responded with “riot-dispersal means” to prevent breaches of the border.
Friday’s deaths brought to 170 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since the weekly protests began on March 30. The campaign is pressing for rights to land that Palestinians lost to Israel in the 1948 war of its foundation, and for an end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza.
Anger in Gaza has also been stoked by funding cuts by the Western-backed administration of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which dominates the West Bank and is the rival of Hamas, which runs Gaza. Their efforts at agreeing on a power-sharing unity deal with Egyptian mediation have not borne fruit.
Cairo had no immediate comment on Friday’s incidents.
Hamas official Izzat Reshiq said the group, and other Palestinian factions, concluded a round of talks with Egyptian security officials over a possible truce with Israel and that further talks were scheduled for later this month.
“Efforts will resume after the holiday of Eid Al-Adha,” Reshiq said on Twitter, referring to a Muslim festival that begins on Aug. 21 and ends on Aug. 24.
Israel sees the Gaza protests as a bid by Hamas, against which it has fought three wars in the last decade, to use civilians as cover for cross-border attacks. Hamas denies this.
Separately, Israeli police said they were attacked on Friday by a knife-wielding man after he emerged from a complex housing Al Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third-holiest shrine, in East Jerusalem.
The man was shot dead, police said, describing him as a resident of an Israeli Arab town where pro-Palestinian sympathies are strong. CCTV video from the scene showed a man lunging at a police trooper with a knife, but not what followed.
Palestinians said that, after the incident, Israeli authorities barred Muslim worshippers from Al Aqsa mosque.
“This is a grave escalation that may lead to unpredictable consequences,” Abbas said in a statement carried by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Mark Heinrich
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