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Israeli policeman dies of gunshot wound from Gaza protest

August 30, 2021 GMT

JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli border police officer who was shot in the head at point-blank range during a violent protest on the Gaza border last week died of his injuries Monday, the Israel police announced.

Barel Hadaria Shmueli, 21, suffered critical injuries when he was shot in the head by a Palestinian gunman on Aug. 21 during a demonstration staged by Hamas, the Islamic militant group ruling the Gaza Strip. He was hospitalized for more than a week in critical condition.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expressed his condolences, saying “there aren’t sufficient words to console the family in its deep mourning.”

Recent weeks have seen mass demonstrations by Palestinians along the Israel-Gaza border that organizers say aims to pressure Israel to ease the blockade of the territory.

On Monday night, hundreds of Palestinians staged a demonstration along the border, burning tires and hurling rocks and explosives at Israeli troops. The Israeli military said it used riot control and live fire to distance Palestinians from the border fence. Israeli gunfire injured three Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials.

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Israel and Egypt have maintained the blockade since Hamas seized power in 2007, a year after winning the Palestinian parliamentary elections.

Two Palestinians, including a 12-year-old boy and a Hamas militant, have been killed by Israeli gunfire during the protests.

Israel’s army chief of staff said in a speech earlier in the evening that “if the calm is not kept, we will not hesitate to launch another campaign” in the Gaza Strip.

“Calm and security will allow an improvement of civilian conditions, but disturbances and terrorism will bring about a strong response, to the point of a military operation,” Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said.

Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since Hamas took power, most recently an 11-day round of fighting in May. Egypt has been working in recent weeks to shore up a cease-fire agreement that ended the fighting.

At least 260 Palestinians were killed during May’s Hamas-Israel war, including 67 children and 39 women, according to the Gaza health ministry. Hamas has acknowledged the deaths of 80 militants. Twelve civilians, including two children, were killed in Israel, along with one soldier.