Seven Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire on Friday during stormy protests along the fence dividing Israel and Hamas-run Gaza, according to Gaza health officials.
Four of them were shot dead after they crossed into Israeli territory and approached an army snipers’ post, the Israeli military and a witness said.
There were no injuries on the Israeli side.
In response to the border violence, and to renewed fires on the Israeli side of the fence caused by incendiary balloons flown from Gaza, Israel’s defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, announced he was halting Qatari-funded transfers of fuel into the Gaza Strip. The fuel shipments had begun in recent days to alleviate the chronic energy shortage in Gaza that has left most of its two million residents with only eight hours of electricity every 24 hours.
Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, has been arranging weekly demonstrations along the Israeli border for the past six months to protest the blockade of the impoverished Palestinian territory and demand a return to land in what is now Israel. After attendance and international attention began to wane in recent weeks, Hamas created special units to expand the protests, which they call “The Great Return March.”