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Rockets fly after deadly protests and Israel hits Gaza



GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israeli aircraft hit dozens of militant locations in the Gaza Strip early Saturday morning as militants fired about 30 missiles in Israel, in the heaviest firefight between fierce enemies in several weeks.

After a bloody day of border patrol, during which Israeli troops shot and killed four Palestinians, they protested at the border fence that divided the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and Israel. The sudden outbreak of fighting and bloodshed complicated the mission of the Egyptian mediators, who have intensified shuttle diplomacy to calm down and prevent a full-fledged conflict between the militant Hamas group and Israel.

The Israeli military said it hit 80 places in Gaza by early Saturday morning, including a security center building. Air strikes Sirens sounded all night in southern Israel, with militants firing 30 missiles, the military said.

It said about 1

0 missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, two landed prematurely in Gaza and the rest fell into open areas. The Israeli military chief, Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, called an emergency meeting of high-ranking security officials, the army added, without going into detail.

There was no word about missile and air strike injuries.

Islamic jihad, a smaller militant group, implicitly took responsibility for the rocket fire. He issued a statement that he is normally restrained, but "can no longer be idle for the continued murder of innocent people and bloodshed by the Israeli occupation."

It was not immediately clear if the Islamic Jihad, sometimes independent of Hamas, had coordinated the missile fire with Hamas. But Israel holds Hamas, which took control of Gaza in 2007, responsible for all the fires emanating from the area.

The sides have waged three wars in the last decade, and Israel and Egypt have maintained a blocking blockade on the territory of Hamas. The Hamas-led weekly protests along the Israeli border were largely designed to break the blockade that devastated the Gaza economy.

On Friday, thousands of Palestinians gathered in five locations along the border, burning tires and throwing stones, grenades and firebombs at Israeli troops responding with tear gas and occasional live fire.

The Israeli army said some suspects briefly crossed the fence.

Three of the dead were reported in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, the Gaza Ministry of Health. Witnesses said that dozens of protesters approached the fence there.

In the north of the Gaza Strip, a 27-year-old man died after being shot in the head, the ministry said. She added that 170 other protesters suffered various injuries.

Hamas, an Islamic militant group that had sworn to the destruction of Israel, had previously reduced the protests as Egypt intensified its efforts to calm down.

On Wednesday, Egyptian intelligence officials met representatives of Palestinian factions in Gaza. Loay Qarouti of the People's Front General Command for the Liberation of Palestine said the mediators called on them to "protect the lives of the protesters and minimize casualties among them".

Egypt wants to restore calm to pursue the broader goal of Palestinian reconciliation between Hamas and the West Bank-based government of President Mahmoud Abbas. The internationally recognized Abbas lost control of Gaza at the 2007 seizure of power.

But Hamas claims to want to completely isolate a crippling blockade Israel and Egypt have imposed on Gaza.

The blockade has made it increasingly difficult for Hamas to govern. The widespread despair among the Gaza Strip's 2 million residents – who receive only a few hours of electricity per day and inedible tap water and are also suffering from rising unemployment and limited freedom of movement – is fueling their participation in Hamas-organized protests.

Since the demonstrations began six months ago, at least 160 Palestinians who participated or participated in the protests were killed. A Gaza militant shot dead an Israeli soldier in July.

Israel accuses Hamas of using the big protests as cover for border infiltration and attacks. It says it defends its border and accuses Hamas of exploiting young demonstrators and encouraging them to risk their lives to increase the pressure to ease the blockade.

Israel stands under strong international criticism for what many see as excessive use of force and the large number of unarmed people being shot dead.

In the West Bank, a 33-year-old Palestinian man was killed and nine others injured by gunshot wounds, one in critical conditions when Israeli forces were confronted with stone throwers In a village near Ramallah, doctors said:

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