6 Palestinians killed by Israel fire on Gaza border


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Large crowds of flag-waving Palestinian protesters marched toward the Gaza border fence with Israel today, some of them throwing stones and drawing Israeli fire that officials said killed at least five people.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said at least 500 Palestinians were hurt by live fire, rubber-coated steel pellets or tear gas fired by Israeli forces at several locations along the fence, but did not provide the breakdown.

Earlier today, in a separate incident, a Palestinian farmer was killed by an Israeli tank shell while he was working in his field before dawn, the ministry said.

The protests had begun as mass sit-ins organized by Gaza's Hamas rulers, but quickly spun out of control.

Israel's military said thousands of Palestinians rolled burning tires and threw stones at forces stationed on the border, and that troops opened fire at the "main instigators."

Palestinian witnesses said hundreds of Palestinians participated in clashes, while thousands more gathered in tent encampments set up in five sites several at a distance of several hundred meters from the border.

Such mass gatherings near the border signal a new tactic by Hamas — and one that might prove more challenging to Israel's military than previous smaller protests.

Military officials have said they will respond harshly to any breaches of the border fence. At the same time, a rising number of casualties will likely stoke more border tensions, a scenario Israel hopes to avoid.

The sit-ins are seen as a new attempt by Hamas to break a crippling, decade-old Gaza border blockade by Israel and Egypt that has made it increasingly difficult for the Islamic militant group to govern.

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