Yet another Palestinian was shot and killed during protests along Gaza’s eastern perimeter as indirect negotiations to loosen the Israeli blockade on the territory were reportedly nearing conclusion.
The slain Palestinian was identified by Gaza’s health ministry as Ahmad Yahya Atallah Yaghi, 25.
At least 120 Palestinians have been killed during the Great March of Return protests that began on 30 March, more than 20 of them children.
Forty more Palestinians in Gaza were killed by Israeli fire in other incidents during that period, and one Israeli soldier was killed by Palestinian gunfire from Gaza.
Children at risk
The theme of this week’s protest was the remembrance of “The Jerusalem Intifada and the Martyr Muhammad Dar Yousif.”The latter refers to Muhammad Tareq Yusif Abu Ayyush, a 17-year-old Palestinian who was shot and killed after stabbing three Israelis in a West Bank settlement, one fatally, last Thursday.
The rights group Defense for Children International Palestine warned this week that children living under Israeli siege in Gaza are “vulnerable to nearly every kind of human rights risk, including the risk of recruitment.”
The group cited the case of Odai Ahmad Mansour Abu Hassan, 11, who died when an improvised device exploded on the rooftop of his Gaza City home in July. The boy’s father, who was also killed in the explosion, was in charge of a rocket unit belonging to the military wing of Fatah, according to Defense for Children International Palestine.
Another child, Hashem Abdulfattah Othman Kallab, 17, was among a group belonging to the military wing of Islamic Jihad when all four were killed in an accidental explosion in southern Gaza in April.
“The Palestinian Authority, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups obligated themselves to not recruit children when they signed a code of conduct in 2010,” Ayed Abu Eqtaish, a director with the children’s rights group, stated.
This week the heads of three UN bodies – while condemning Israel’s killing of children during Gaza protests – deplored “the too often cynical use of children in political rhetoric and propaganda on all sides.”
The trio said “of particular concern” was last week’s call by Great March of Return organizers for Palestinians to protest under the banner of “Friday of our Child Martyrs.”
“Children should never be the target of violence and must not be put at risk of violence nor encouraged to participate in violence,” the officials stated.
The march theme was likely intended to focus attention on Israel’s violence against Palestinian children whose deaths have often been ignored or downplayed by international officials and media.
During this Friday’s protest, Palestinians managed to break through part of the militarized Gaza-Israel boundary fence and seize an Israeli sniper position:
A potential breakthrough was reported to be underway as Egypt and the United Nations mediated indirect talks between Israel and Hamas over Gaza’s future.
According to the Lebanese paper Al-Akhbar, the multistage deal would see the easing of Israel’s blockade on Gaza and the implementation of humanitarian projects after the end of “provocations” along the boundary.
The first stage would see the permanent opening of the Kerem Shalom and Rafah crossings upon the cessation of incendiary kites and balloons from Gaza that have caused fires damaging thousands of acres in Israel.
The second stage would entail improving the living conditions in Gaza and lifting the siege entirely, allowing the entry of all goods and the increase of electricity from Israeli power lines.
The third and final stage would see the operation of a shipping port, airport and the building a power station, all on Egyptian territory, for the use of Palestinians in Gaza.
This week Israel granted permission for the import of equipment into Gaza to complete the installment of a large desalination plant and several water reservoirs in the territory.
“The entire project, carried out by American companies that are operating under a Gazan contractor, is slated to cost 60 million shekels ($16 million),” the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
“The project was postponed for months because of the security situation in Gaza and Israeli restrictions on the movement of goods into the Strip.”
Israel bans gas and fuel
Haaretz added that the approval was made days before Wednesday’s announcement by defense minister Avigdor Lieberman that the Kerem Shalom checkpoint – Gaza’s sole commercial crossing, controlled by Israel – would be closed until further notice.
“Gas and fuel has been banned from entering the Gaza Strip though the crossing,” Lieberman stated. “But food and medicine are exempted from that decision until the incendiary kites and balloons have stopped.”
Gisha, the Israel-based rights group that focuses on freedom of movement, condemned the closure, stating that “Collective punishment is illegal and immoral.”
Calling such measures “a muscle that is flexed for domestic political gain,” the group warned:
“The impact on [Gaza’s] economy, which is already coping with 50 percent unemployment and with the weakening purchasing power of the population that lives in perpetual insecurity – in large part due to Israel’s arbitrary and aggressive interventions – could be fatal.”
Gisha added that “this cruel game in human life is both confounding and outrageous.”