Israel kills two Palestinians in Gaza

Palestinians protest near the boundary fence with Israel, east of al-Bureij in central Gaza, on 17 August, the 21st Friday of the Great March of Return.

Mahmoud Khattab APA images

Israeli occupation forces killed two Palestinians amid protests in the Gaza Strip for the 21st consecutive Friday under the banner of the Great March of Return.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian citizen of Israel was shot dead by Israeli occupation forces in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Karim Ahmad Ali Fatayer, 28, was fatally shot in the head when Israeli soldiers opened fire on unarmed protesters near the boundary fence in Gaza’s central district, the human rights group Al Mezan reported.

Israeli forces also fatally shot in the head Saadi Akram Muhammad Abu Muammar, 27, near Rafah in southernmost Gaza.

More than 100 others were shot with live ammunition on Friday, according to Al Mezan.

“As usual, Israeli occupation forces deliberately targeted medical personnel,” Al Mezan stated.

“They fired live ammunition toward them and used tear gas canisters as weapons aimed directly at their bodies, despite their clearly marked clothing.”

Since the Great March of Return protests began on 30 March, Israeli forces have killed three medics, including 22-year-old Abdallah al-Qatati last Friday.

This Friday, two Red Crescent volunteers were injured – one by a tear gas canister fired directly at him, and the other with bullet shrapnel to the knee – as they tried to evacuate injured persons in northern Gaza, Al Mezan reported.

Since the start of the year, more than 200 Palestinians have died by fire from the Israeli military and armed civilians, more than than 180 of them in Gaza. At least 125 have been killed during Gaza’s Great March of Return protests.

More than 5,000 Palestinians have been injured with live ammunition since those protests began, among them more than 800 children.

There has been a single Israeli fatality related to Gaza during that period, a soldier killed by sniper fire last month – the first Israeli death due to fire from Gaza since the 2014 ceasefire.

Man shot dead in Jerusalem

On Friday, lethal violence returned to the occupied West Bank when Israeli forces shot dead a 30-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel who they say attempted to stab an Israeli police officer in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The man has been named as Ahmad Mahamid from the northern town of Umm al-Fahm.

“A statement released by police said the man emerged from an area near the Temple Mount and started walking towards a team of policemen stationed in the area,” the newspaper Haaretz reported, using Israel’s terminology for the al-Aqsa mosque compound. “He then tried to stab one of them with a knife he had in his possession.”

“A confrontation then ensued, during which the man was shot and killed,” the newspaper stated.

While no more details of the “confrontation” were reported, Israeli forces habitually shoot to kill alleged assailants when they no longer pose any danger, or when they could be apprehended without the use of lethal force, a policy of extrajudicial execution.

Israeli police released a video they said showed the attempted stabbing but it does not show what happened afterwards:

In the video, a man with his face blurred can be seen walking along an alley in Jerusalem’s Old City, when he turns to his right, appears to pull a knife from his pocket and lunges at an Israeli officer standing behind a crowd control barrier. Israeli police said no police or other persons were injured.

Following the incident, Israeli occupation forces closed off entrances to the Old City to Palestinians, local media reported.

Israeli forces also expelled worshippers and staff from the al-Aqsa mosque and closed it.

Videos posted by Palestinian media show Palestinians gathering outside an entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque and protesting its closure.

Dozens of Israeli police raided Mahamid’s home in Umm al-Fahm and began interrogating members of his family Friday night.

A relative told the publication Arab48 that the family was shocked to learn of Mahamid’s death and involvement in the incident, and that Mahamid was not affiliated with any political movement.

He was married with two children.

Qatari met Israeli defense minister

Meanwhile, Israeli media reported on Thursday that Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman met secretly with a senior Qatari diplomat Muhammad al-Emadi in June about the situation in Gaza.

The meeting took place in Cyprus to “discuss the enclave’s humanitarian crisis and the return of captive Israeli civilians and fallen soldiers” held by Hamas, according to The Times of Israel.

Israel and Hamas are reportedly engaged in indirect negotiations for a long-term, multi-stage ceasefire that would involve loosening Israel’s devastating siege and eventually establishing sea and air links to the territory.

The Qatari envoy reportedly pledged to Lieberman $350 million to fund “humanitarian projects” in Gaza.

Since Israel closed Gaza’s only commercial crossing in July, as collective punishment for burning kites and balloons that have been launched from Gaza across the boundary with Israel, UN officials have sounded the alarm about the “unfolding of a man-made catastrophe.”

Israel reopened the crossing Wednesday, but the situation in Gaza remains dire.

In gross violation of international law, Israel has used basic humanitarian needs as bargaining chips in its effort to force Gaza’s political factions and population to submit to its will.

Palestinians have been forced to negotiate for their very survival in a territory where hospitals have faced shutdowns for lack of fuel, water and sewage systems are near collapse and the unemployment rate has soared above 50 percent.

Israel has been clear that imposing suffering on Palestinians in Gaza is intentional.

But as Gisha, an Israeli human rights group that focuses on the siege of Gaza, has stated, “Collective punishment of the civilian population for actions that are beyond its control is both immoral and illegal, further propelling Gaza toward a foreseeable humanitarian disaster.”

Lieberman has also asserted that every single one of more than 160 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since 30 March is a member of Hamas, including at least 23 children, two journalists and three medics.

Such statements may be evidence of intent to commit war crimes, since they indicate that top Israeli officials make no effort to distinguish between combatants and civilians.

In the short term, Qatar, the UN, Egypt and others involved in the efforts to reach a ceasefire may aim to alleviate the worst effects of Israel’s policies and prevent violence escalating out of control.

But playing by Israel’s rules reinforces a deadly dynamic in which Israel can ratchet up the suffering it inflicts on Palestinian civilians with total impunity and then count on the rest of the world to pay the bills to mitigate the damage it has deliberately caused.