Cease-fire talks continue ahead of Gaza anniversary rally


Tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied in the Gaza Strip on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of their mass protests along the Israeli border, as the territory's Hamas leaders largely restrained the crowds ahead of a hoped-for cease-fire deal.

The commissioners concluded that, while demonstrations were "at times violent, " 187 of those killings were unlawful cases in which protesters didn't pose an imminent threat to life or where force was "neither necessary nor proportional" and that Israeli forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The death of the two 17-year-olds brought to at least 50 the number of Palestinian children killed in Gaza since protests began, charity Save the Children said. Al-Shawa was due to get married in two weeks, but an Israeli airstrike on a Gaza City building destroyed his sister's apartment, where he had rented a second floor bedroom and had amassed everything he and his bride needed for the wedding.

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, said the group had received "positive signs" from the Egyptians.

Although Hamas canceled its typical Friday protests in preparation for the anniversary, dozens of Palestinians still demonstrated at the Israeli frontier.

"I don't know how many years will pass before our lives improve but we should continue (protests) as long as the occupation and the blockade exist".

Security in the south is expected to be an important issue in Israel's April 9 election, when right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a strong electoral challenge after a decade in power.

Earlier on Saturday, Gaza health officials said Israeli troops shot and killed a 21-year-old Palestinian man near the perimeter fence, hours before the mass rally.

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Ardern will address the service, which has the theme "We Are One" and will be broadcast on national television. Thousands more were expected to attend a service at Auckland's Eden Park on Friday afternoon.

His right-wing coalition government launched air strikes and moved armour and reinforcements to the Gaza border this week after a Palestinian rocket attack wounded seven Israelis in a village north of Tel Aviv on Monday.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said on Friday that Hamas had fired 1,233 rockets from Gaza in the past year, set off 94 explosive devices and set fire to more than 8,000 acres of Israeli land.

They also demand an end to Israel's 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave's economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.

Israel seized Gaza in a 1967 war and pulled out its troops in 2005.

Israel says it is only defending its border and accuses Hamas of orchestrating the demonstrations to deflect pressure from internal dissent.

Amnesty said, quoting a United Nations report, that between March 30, 2018 and last week, at least 195 Palestinian demonstrating at the border were killed while 29,000 others reported injuries.

Israel says its troops have no choice because they are trying to stop militants breaching the fence and attacking Israeli communities nearby.