Eleven Palestinians Said Wounded in Clashes at Gaza-Israel Border

Israeli aircraft fires at group releasing incendiary balloons ■ Egyptian intel officials visit Gaza to discuss Palestinian reconciliation, potential Hamas-Israel deal

Palestinians run from tear gas during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence on September 21, 2018.
IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS

Eleven Palestinians were wounded in clashes at the Israel-Gaza border fence on Saturday evening, the Gaza Health Ministry reported, while the military said an Israeli aircraft fired at a group releasing incendiary balloons in the Gaza Strip.

The border clashes have become a daily event in the evening hours as Hamas seeks to tie up Israeli forces along the entire border by deploying what it defines as "night units."Meanwhile, on the Israeli side of the Gaza border, firefighters successfully battled eight fires, some of which were started by incendiary balloons from Gaza.

Also Saturday, senior Egyptian intelligence officials visited the Gaza Strip  to meet with senior Hamas officials. The main topics of discussion were the stalled reconciliation talks between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and efforts to arrange a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel.

According to reports from Gaza, the Egyptian delegation included Gen. Ahmed Abu al-Khaleq, the intelligence officer who oversees Palestinian matters, and Mostafa Shehata, the Egyptian consul in Ramallah. The two met with Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political bureau.

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On Tuesday, officials from the Palestinian Authority’s ruling party, Fatah, visited Cairo, and earlier this month Hamas officials visited the Egyptian capital. But both sides say there has been no progress in the reconciliation talks, and Haniyeh announced earlier this week that Hamas plans to continue discussions on a cease-fire with Israel regardless of the fate of the reconciliation talks.

Nevertheless, Gaza demonstrators have recently been clashing with Israeli soldiers along the border throughout the week, rather than only on Fridays, as had previously been the case. At a demonstration in eastern Gaza on Friday, Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’ leader in Gaza, said: “The Palestinian people are prepared to continue the marches until their goals are achieved. Anyone betting on the Palestinian people breaking or giving in is under a delusion.”

Over the past week, Israeli fire has killed six Palestinians along the border. On Monday, the army announced that it had conducted an airstrike on a group placing a suspicious object near the border, and the Gaza Health Ministry said two people were killed. The next day, two Palestinians were shot near the Erez Checkpoint between Israel and Gaza, and on Wednesday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said a 15-year-old was shot and killed near Rafah. On Friday, the ministry said another demonstrator was killed by Israeli fire east of Rafah.