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Israeli Troops, Palestinian Protesters Clash; At Least 7 Dead


It's been a day of clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters along the Gaza Strip's barrier fence. Palestinian officials say at least seven Palestinians have been killed. And this violence was anticipated. This is a day that Palestinians mark every year, demanding to return to land in what is now Israel. NPR's Daniel Estrin is on the line from Jerusalem. Hi, Daniel.


KING: So this is a fast-moving story. What's the latest?

ESTRIN: Well, Palestinians set up tents along the border fence with Israel and said that today would be day one of a six-week protest along the border. They've called it the March of Return in support of Palestinians returning to lands, as you mentioned, that are today in Israel. The demonstrators said that they wouldn't cross the border. But Israel feared that masses of people would do so and would stream into Israel.

So for the last few days, Israeli officials have been warning Palestinians on social media not to participate, not to come to the border. Israel accuses Hamas of being behind all this. Today, Israel beefed up its troops along the border. And now thousands of Palestinians are gathered at about six different spots there, throwing firebombs and rocks at troops, according to the Israeli military. And Palestinian officials say hundreds have been wounded.

KING: And that, I assume, is also where the death toll comes from. Daniel, Hamas controls the Gaza Strip these days, of course, and tensions have been rising there for a while. What is life like for people who are living in Gaza?

ESTRIN: Gazans are facing a serious humanitarian crisis. There's a water crisis and electricity shortage. There's also a financial crisis. The Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has reduced salaries to civil servants in Gaza. It's kind of a way to pressure the militant group Hamas to give up its control of Gaza. But Hamas is still in control there.

And in the last decade, Gaza has been under blockade by Israel and Egypt. It's very hard for people in Gaza to leave. And Gaza still is not rehabilitated from a 2014 war with Israel. So a lot of people don't really see much hope for a better future. And a lot of people don't have a lot to lose when they go out to demonstrate at the border like they are today.

KING: Daniel, quickly, as these clashes continue, is there any move toward some kind of peace talks?

ESTRIN: Doesn't look like it. The U.S. is trying to spearhead peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians. But the Palestinians aren't talking to the U.S. since President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

KING: NPR's Daniel Estrin on the line from Jerusalem. Thank you, Daniel.

ESTRIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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