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Hamas complains to Egypt after Israeli army kills Gazan

A Palestinian youth (C) waves a flag in front of Israeli soldiers during a demonstration in the West Bank village of al-Masara near Bethlehe
A Palestinian youth (C) waves a flag in front of Israeli soldiers during a demonstration in the West Bank village of al-Masara near Bethlehe

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - Hamas accused Israel on Saturday of violating the shaky, Egyptian-brokered Gaza truce of November 21 after Israeli troops killed a Palestinian taking part in a protest at the enclave's border fence.

Medical officials said the 21-year-old man had been among six Palestinians wounded by gunfire during Friday's demonstration near southern Rafah, and had later died in hospital.

The Israeli military said the Palestinians had tried to vandalize the fortified fence and that soldiers shot at their legs after first trying to warn them away.

The Gaza Strip's Hamas government described the incident, as well as the Israeli navy's seizure of nine Palestinian fisherman on Wednesday, as violations of a ceasefire mediated by Cairo to end a surge of cross-border fighting this month.

"We have discussed this with Egyptian officials, so they guarantee a cessation to those violations," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

Increased Palestinian access to the Gaza fence and to fishing waters heavily patrolled by Israel were among conditions lodged by Hamas and other armed factions in the Cairo talks.

Israel said it was willing to ease its military clampdown on the territory if the Palestinians did not pose a threat.

Since 2009, the Israelis had enforced a 300-metre-deep no-go zone on the Palestinian side of the border, saying this kept away gunmen and would-be infiltrators. It had also denied Palestinians the means of working swathes of farmland.

The army suspended zone enforcement after the November 21 truce, but killed another Palestinian in a similar fence protest two days later. Hamas, while condemning Israel, deployed police to evacuate other demonstrations.

Abu Zuhri's remarks did not indicate that the Islamist movement, which remains hostile to the Jewish state, wanted to abandon the ceasefire. The eight days of fighting this month killed 166 Palestinians, while Gazan rocket fire killed six Israelis.

A smaller Palestinian group, Islamic Jihad, was more threatening than Hamas, saying in a statement that "continued and so flagrant (Israeli) violations would put the calm at risk and push resistance factions to respond in a way they deem suitable".

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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