Gazans protest to bust Israeli border blockade

Mahmud Hams—AFP

Mahmud Hams—AFP

Pro-Palestinian activists set fires and hurled stones and bottles at Israeli Defense Forces near the Gaza border crossing Friday; setting the stage for a major showdown just days before the United States embassy officially opens in Jerusalem. The kite fell inside Israel, where it started a small brush fire.

A total of 44 Palestinian rioters - some of whom were reported to be members of terrorist groups - have been killed since the "Great March of Return" demonstrations began at the end of March.

Friday's killings raised to 53 the death toll of unarmed Palestinian protesters who have lost their lives by Israeli forces' live fire since protests began along the Gaza border on March 30.

Hundreds of Gaza residents are gathering near the border with Israel for a seventh weekly protest aimed at shaking off a decade-old blockade of their territory.

IDF troops have responded with riot dispersal means and are firing in accordance with the rules of engagement, the Israeli army said.

It has accused Hamas of using the protests as a cover to attack the border, insisting it has a right to protect it. The Israeli military has repeatedly used force against the demonstrators in order to suppress the protests.

Thousands of Indonesian Muslims rallied in Jakarta Friday against US President Donald Trump's controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The embassy is being temporarily relocated to the former consular services section of the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem, though part of the diplomatic compound is located in a contested area known as No Man's Land on the border of Israel and Jordan.

The question of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Next week's climax will focus on the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem, taking place on Monday, and commemorating Nakba (catastrophe) day, when Palestinians mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel and the birth of the Palestinian refugee problem.

Separately, the border with Egypt, the only country apart from Israel with which Gaza shares a border, is set to open its crossing for four days starting on Saturday, the Palestinian embassy in Cairo said.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007.

Egypt opens the crossing from time to time, mainly to allow people in special categories, including medical patients and Gaza residents studying overseas, to leave the territory or return to it.

One man walked onto the stage with an effigy of Trump dangling from a noose.

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