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Two Palestinian teenagers killed in clashes, but Israel praises Hamas 'restraint'

Two Palestinian teenagers killed in clashes, but Israel praises Hamas 'restraint'

Before dawn Saturday, a Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire during an overnight protest ahead of the main demonstration, the enclave's health ministry said.

The Israeli army said that a projectile launched from the Gaza Strip did not cross into Israeli territory, but did set off air-raid sirens in the country's south.

Amid a festive atmosphere, tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered in Gaza along the boundary fence with Israel on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the Great March of Return.

Thousands of Palestinians have joined demonstrations near the Israeli border fence, marking the first anniversary of weekly protests in Gaza. Another 316 Gazans were wounded.

Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, is behind Saturday's protests, even bringing participants in by bus but also encouraging them to keep calm.

Palestinians have been taking part in protests along the border since 30 March 2018 as part of a campaign, dubbed "the Great March of Return". It added that most of the demonstrators remained in encampments away from the border fence. United Nations investigators last week said Israeli forces might be guilty of war crimes for using excessive force.

There were also sporadic clashes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Palestinian youths threw petrol bombs in Hebron.

An Egyptian security delegation visited the protest site east of Gaza City, as did Hamas leaders Ismail Haniya and Yahya Sinwar.

It said grenades and explosive devices were hurled at troops, who responded "in accordance with standard operating procedures".

Gaza health officials report one 20-year-old and three 17-year-old protesters were killed by Israeli troops, and dozens of protesters were rushed to the hospitals with bullet wounds. Israeli soldiers hiding in ditches behind the razor wire have so far killed 266 protesters, and injured 30,000 more.

In the run-up to the anniversary, long-time mediator Egypt had shuttled back and forth in a bid to avoid major bloodshed.

What happened during earlier protests?

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Khalil al-Hayya, another senior figure in the Islamist movement, said they were expecting to receive a timetable from Israel on Sunday.

The Israeli military also used a loud sound machine to spray blue-colored water on demonstrators.

The timing is especially sensitive for Israel, which holds a keenly contested general election on April 9 in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a stiff challenge from centrist former military chief Benny Gantz.

Hamas announced an Egyptian-brokered truce that ended the exchange of fire.

Fighting flared when a Palestinian rocket attack from Gaza wounded seven Israelis in a village north of Tel Aviv on Monday.

The protesters are demanding a right to return to land from which their ancestors fled or were forced to flee during Israel's founding in 1948. Israel rejects that demand, saying that would eliminate its Jewish majority. But the 18-year-old has just been killed against a backdrop of extreme state violence from Israel.

Unless undertaken lawfully in self-defence, intentionally shooting a civilian not directly participating in hostilities is a war crime.

The delegation is now in Gaza as part of a shuttle diplomacy to reach a truce deal between Gaza-based resistance factions and Israel.

The rocket fire threatened to undermine Egyptian-mediated efforts to cement a deal that the Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers hope will ease a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the crowded territory.

Expecting the violence to continue escalating on Saturday, Israel had beefed up its forces at the border in preparation for the demonstration.

Thousands more have been injured, including "many children, women, persons with disabilities and paramedics", Al Mezan stated.

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