Palestinian death toll rises to 48 in last weekend’s fighting between Israel and Gaza militants

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Palestinian death toll in last weekend’s fighting between Israel and Gaza militants rose to 48 on Thursday after an 11-year-old girl and a man died of complications. of injuries sustained in the worst cross-border violence in more than a year.

Meanwhile, two injured Gazan children, ages 8 and 14, were fighting for their lives in a Jerusalem hospital. A total of more than 300 Palestinians were injured over the weekend when Israel struck Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza and the militant group fired hundreds of rockets into Israel.

READ MORE: Palestinian officials say Israeli soldiers killed 3 and injured 40 in West Bank raid

The death of 11-year-old Layan al-Shaer at Mukassed Hospital in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem brought the number of children killed in the fighting to 17. Hani al-Shaer, a relative, said she was injured in a drone attack in an initial surprise salvo launched by Israel, hours before rockets were fired.

Israel said it launched the first wave of airstrikes, which killed an Islamic Jihad commander, in response to an imminent threat from the militant group, days after Israeli troops arrested one of its leaders in the occupied West Bank.

Two other children from Gaza, Nayef al-Awdat, 14, and Mohammed Abu Ktaifa, 8, were being treated in the Mukassed intensive care unit.

Nayef, who is blind, was injured in an Israeli airstrike, while Mohammed was injured in an explosion that occurred near a wedding party and killed an elderly woman, the circumstances of which are not clear. still unclear.

Israel said up to 16 people were killed by failed rockets by Palestinian militants. Israeli strikes appear to have killed more than 30 Palestinians, including civilians and several militants, including two senior Islamic Jihad commanders. It is not immediately clear how the man whose death was announced on Thursday was injured. The Israeli army says it is doing everything possible to avoid civilian casualties.

A ceasefire was established on Sunday evening, ending the fighting that began on Friday. No Israelis were killed or seriously injured.

Israel and the militant Hamas leaders of Gaza have fought four wars and several small battles in the past 15 years at a staggering cost to the territory’s 2 million Palestinian residents. Hamas has not participated in the latest fighting, possibly due to agreements with Israel that eased a 15-year-old Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed on Gaza when Hamas took power.

Separately, a Palestinian prisoner on a prolonged hunger strike was transferred Thursday from an Israeli prison to a hospital due to his worsening condition, the prisoner’s wife said. An Israel Prisons Service official confirmed the development, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with regulations.

Khalil Awawdeh refused to eat for just over 160 days, according to his family, in an effort to draw attention to his detention by Israel without trial or charge. His case has come to the fore during the latest fighting in Gaza.

Gaza activists demanded his release as part of the ceasefire that ended the fighting.

Awawdeh, a 40-year-old father of four, was arrested by Israel in December on charges of being a member of a militant group, a charge his lawyer said he denies. Recently, he used a wheelchair and suffered from memory loss and speech difficulties, according to his lawyer, Ahlam Haddad.

Dalal Awawdeh, Khalil’s wife, said his condition had deteriorated, prompting Israeli authorities to transfer him to hospital.

Dr Lina Qasem of Physicians for Human Rights Israel said after meeting Awawdeh on Thursday that his condition was “extremely bad” and that he only drinks water and refuses extra vitamins, salts and sugar .

“He suffers from very extreme weakness,” she said. Awawdeh said he would continue his hunger strike until his release, she said, but he ‘asks the medical team to do what is necessary to save his life as he does not wish to die’ .

Prospects for Awawdeh’s release under the ceasefire are uncertain. But her case highlights the plight of hundreds of Palestinians who are detained by Israel under a system that critics say denies them the right to due process, known as administrative detention. Worsening conditions for prisoners on hunger strike have in the past fueled tensions with Palestinians and, in some cases, pushed Israel to accede to hunger strikers’ demands.

Israel currently detains some 4,400 Palestinians, including militants who carried out deadly attacks, as well as those arrested during protests or for throwing stones. About 670 Palestinians are currently being held in administrative detention, a number that jumped in March as Israel began near-night arrest raids in the West Bank following a series of deadly attacks on Israelis.

Israel says administrative detention is necessary to prevent attacks or to keep dangerous suspects locked up without sharing evidence that could endanger valuable intelligence sources. Israel says it ensures due process and largely imprisons those who threaten its security, although a small number are detained for minor crimes.

Palestinians and human rights groups say the system is designed to crush opposition and maintain permanent control over millions of Palestinians while denying them their basic rights.
Associated Press writers Tia Goldenberg in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Isaac Scharf in Jerusalem contributed to this report.


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