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Israeli fire kills Gaza protester; clashes in West Bank

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli troops on Friday shot dead a Palestinian at the weekly protest along the fence bordering the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, and Palestinians and the Israeli military clashed in a West Bank village earlier in the day.

Tamer Arafat, 23, was wounded in the head in southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah and died shortly after arriving at the local hospital, the Palestinian health ministry said. The ministry added that 44 protesters were injured with life fire as well as two journalists and two medics.

In what could be a response to the killing, Palestinian militants fired a projectile from Gaza into Israel, the Israeli army said. There were no reports of casualties and no Palestinian group claimed responsibility.

Early Saturday, Israeli fighter jets carried out several airstrikes in northern and southern Gaza Strip, targeting what the Israeli military said were a Hamas compound and underground structures. In a statement, the military said the raids were a response to the projectile and incendiary kites that were flown Friday across the border. There were no reports of casualties.

The army said Hamas is responsible for any fire emanating from Gaza. The protests started last March to highlight Palestinian demands of return to ancestral lands in present-day Israel. The militant Hamas group took over the demonstrations soon after and diverted them into an outcry against the blockade that Israel and Egypt imposed on Gaza when the Islamic movement seized it in 2007.

Since then, more than 190 Palestinians have been killed during the protests. Israel rejects criticism over the use of lethal fire, saying it defends its sovereignty against mass breach of the border. Last month, a U.N.-assigned committee found that Israeli soldiers intentionally fired on Gaza civilians during the demonstrations and they may have committed crimes against humanity.

The Israeli government lambasted the report by the Independent Commission of Inquiry, which was mandated by Human Rights Council. Thousands participated in Friday's protests along several sections of the fence, which occurred shortly after Egyptian meditators met in Gaza City with Hamas' leadership in a bid to calm the situation. There were no immediate details about the results of the discussions.

Also on Friday, the Israeli military said it detained two Palestinians shortly after they crossed the border from Gaza. They were hiding a grenade and a knife in their clothes, according to the military.

In the West Bank, meanwhile, clashes erupted between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian demonstrators in Beit Sira village, the site of a confrontation that led to the deaths of two Palestinians earlier this week.

Palestinians hurled stones at Israeli forces, and troops responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported five injured. Hundreds had gathered to protest the killing of two Palestinians near the city of Ramallah by the Israeli army.

The military called the deadly incident Monday a "car-ramming attack" that targeted Israeli soldiers. An Israeli officer and policeman were injured in the crash, prompting troops to open fire, killing two Palestinians in the car.

Palestinian officials and residents have disputed the army's account, contending the road and weather conditions indicated it was a car accident.

DeBre reported from Jerusalem.

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