Israeli airstrike on Gaza border kills Palestinian

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JERUSALEM — An Israeli airstrike killed a Gaza man Thursday, while a second Palestinian died of wounds sustained in last week’s mass protest along the Gaza-Israel border, officials said.

The deaths brought to 21 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire over the past week, including 15 who had been involved in the protests.

The man killed in the airstrike before dawn Thursday had approached the border fence with an assault rifle, the Israeli military said. It released a grainy video showing the armed man walking in the dark.

A new round of protests along the border is expected on Friday, raising the prospect of further bloodshed.

The protest march last week, largely organized by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, had been billed as the first of several weeks of intermittent protests against a stifling decade-old Israeli blockade.

Hamas leaders have portrayed the final protest, set for May 15, as the “Great March of Return” of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, implying they would try to enter Israeli territory. But they have stopped short of specifically threatening a mass breach of the border fence.

The Israeli military has said it will not allow anyone to breach the border fence and has beefed up forces in the area, with snipers and other special units. The military was on high alert ahead of Friday.

Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N.’s Mideast envoy, urged both sides to show caution on Friday.

“Israeli forces should exercise maximum restraint and Palestinians should avoid friction at the Gaza fence,” he said.

“Demonstrations and protests must be allowed to proceed in a peaceful manner,” he added. “Civilians, particularly children, must not be intentionally put in danger or targeted in any way.”

Meanwhile, Gaza health officials said a 34-year-old Palestinian who was seriously injured in last week’s protests died of his injuries Thursday.

Hundreds more were wounded by live fire last week, according to Palestinian health officials. Of the 21 dead so far, 15 were killed during border protests, and videos and witness accounts indicate that most were not armed or carrying out attacks at the moment they were killed.

Hamas announced it is distributing money to the families of those killed and wounded in Friday’s clashes. Families of those killed receive $3,000. Wounded receive $500 or $200 depending on the injury.

Hamas said in a statement the money is part of its “national and social responsibility in boosting the steadfastness” of the people.

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