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Gaza protests escalate after deal to ease Israeli blockade fails

Israel has killed at least 178 Palestinians since protests began in March. [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 September, 2018

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An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire was reached in August after one of the biggest flare-ups in violence between Israel and Hamas since the 2014 war.

Palestinians in Gaza protested on Wednesday in a new location along the perimeter fence with Israel, as demonstrations intensify after Egyptian-led ceasefire talks appear to have stalled.

An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire was reached in August after one of the biggest flare-ups in violence between Israel and Hamas since the 2014 war.

It was the third major escalation since July and came despite attempts by UN officials and Egypt to secure a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas.

Hamas was hoping indirect talks with Israel would result in lifting the crippling blockade that Israel and Egypt have maintained on the besieged territory since 2007.

The group was close to reaching a deal as mediation efforts peaked in August, but intervention by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas resulted in "confusing and slowing" the discussions, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said.

"Creating new ways and tactics and diversifying the marches is meant to achieve the coveted goal of … the lifting of the siege," Qassem added.

Thousands of employees of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees also protested in Gaza on Wednesday against forced redundancies as a result of US funding cuts, announcing a one-day strike next week.

Washington has provided more than $350 million a year for the agency, but US President Donald Trump pulled all funding earlier this year.

Around 80 percent of Palestinians in the impoverished Gaza Strip are eligible for UNRWA aid, while the agency employs around 13,000 people there.

Since March, demonstrators have gathered every Friday along the border with Israel to protest the desperation of living under the crippling blockade and to demand the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Israel has killed at least 178 Palestinians since protests began in March.

Rights groups say the Israeli blockade amounts to collective punishment of the impoverished strip's two million residents.

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