Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Israelis kill man but ceasefire holds

Gazans surge towards border, soldiers fire

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Israeli troops fired on Gazans surging toward Israel's border fence Friday, killing one person but leaving intact the fragile two-day-old ceasefire between Hamas and the Jewish state.

The truce, which calls for an end to Gazan rocket fire on Israel and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, came after eight days of cross-border fighting, the bloodiest between Israel and Hamas in four years. The fighting killed 166 Palestinians and six Israelis.

In a letter to the UN Security Council, Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour called the situation in Gaza "extremely fragile."

Hundreds of Palestinians approached the border fence Friday in several locations in southern Gaza, testing expectations Israel would no longer enforce a 300-metre-wide no-go zone on the Palestinian side meant to prevent infiltrations into Israel. In the past, Israeli soldiers routinely opened fire on those who crossed into the zone.

In an incident captured by Associated Press video, several dozen Palestinians, mostly young men, approached the fence, coming close to a group of Israeli soldiers on the other side.

Some Palestinians briefly talked to the soldiers, while others chanted "God is Great" and "Morsi, Morsi," in praise of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, whose mediation led to the truce.

At one point, a soldier shouted in Hebrew, "Go there, before I shoot you," and pointed away from the fence, toward Gaza. The soldier then dropped to one knee, assuming a firing position. Eventually, a burst of automatic fire was heard. It was not clear whether any of the casualties were from this incident.

Mansour said Israeli forces fatally shot Anwar Abdulhadi Qudaih, 21, and injured at least 19 Palestinian civilians in a border area east of Khan Younis.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, a top Hamas official at the ongoing negotiations in Cairo, said the violence would have no effect on the ceasefire.

The crowds included farmers hoping to once again farm lands in the buffer zone. Speaking by phone from the buffer zone, 19-year-old Ali Abu Taimah said he and his father were checking three acres of family land that have been fallow for several years.

"When we go to our land, we are telling the occupation (Israel) that we are not afraid at all," he said.

Israel's military said roughly 300 Palestinians approached the security fence at different points, tried to damage it and cross into Israel. Soldiers fired warning shots in the air, but after the Palestinians refused to move back, troops fired at their legs, the military said.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 24, 2012 A30

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