Hamas backs Egypt proposal for calm on Israel border

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The Gaza Strip’s Islamist rulers Hamas have backed an Egyptian proposal to foster calm on the Israel border ahead of major expected protests, two Hamas officials said Friday.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli side on the potential agreement.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to gather Saturday for the first anniversary of the often violent protests along the border, which Hamas has strongly backed.

Egypt, the United Nations and others have been trying to mediate an agreement to limit the level of violence.

An Egyptian delegation held talks with Hamas and other factions in Gaza in meetings that stretched into the early hours of Friday, the officials said.

A Hamas official who took part in the meetings told AFP on condition of anonymity they had backed an Egyptian proposal that will see protesters stay several hundred meters from the border.

Hamas-backed attacks in the Israeli-occupied West Bank would also cease, the official said.

In exchange, the official said, “the Egyptians informed us that the (Israelis) promised to ease their measures.”

In particular the Israelis will not fire on protesters unless they approach the border fence.

His remarks were confirmed by a second Hamas official, according to AFP.

At least 258 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the protests began on March 30 last year, most during the border clashes. Two Israeli soldiers have been killed.

UN urges Israel, Hamas to avoid violence on Gaza anniversary

Meanwhile, a UN official is urging Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers to avoid a violent escalation on the eve of the first anniversary of the start of weekly border protests.

Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian official for the Palestinian territories, issued a statement on Friday outlining the “staggering” human costs a year of demonstrations has inflicted, especially on Gaza’s children, according to the Associated Press.

The statement says 195 Palestinians, including some 40 children, have been killed by Israeli forces.