GAZA: Israeli troops on Friday shot dead two Palestinians taking part in protests along the Gaza border. At least 270 other Palestinians were wounded, 70 of them by gunfire, the Palestinian health ministry in the territory said.
Meanwhile in occupied East Jerusalem, hundreds of worshipers were forced to perform prayers outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, after Israeli police shut the gates to the compound, Palestinian news agency WAFA reported. The closure came after police claimed that an unidentified man attempted to stab a police officer near the mosque.
In Gaza, the health ministry named the dead men as Karim Abu Fatayer, 30, shot near the central Gaza town of Bureij and Sadi Moamer, 26, killed near Rafah, in the south. It said that both men were shot in the head. The Israeli military said troops had opened fire in border incidents. At least 171 Gazans have been killed by Israeli fire since late March, mostly during protests. Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including its Hamas rulers, have fought three wars since 2008 and tensions since late March have led to fears of yet another full-blown conflict. There have been three intense flare-ups since July, the latest on Thursday, when Israel responded to some 180 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza with widespread air strikes. An Israeli official said on Wednesday that truce talks mediated by Egyptian and United Nations officials had reached an initial set of “understandings” leading to calm on the border over the past few days. Senior Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya told AFP on Friday that a durable truce with Israel was near. “In my opinion, yes, we are nearing an agreement,” he said. He added that the UN and Egyptian talks taking place in Egypt with various Palestinian factions have “taken a big step forward toward understandings with the occupation… and the possibility of restoring calm.”