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World

Israeli Troops Kill At Least 4 Palestinian Protesters, Gaza Health Officials Say

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

And now to Gaza - it's been one year since Palestinians there began protesting at the Israeli fence, calling for Israel to ease a blockade on Gaza. Israel has called the protests violent riots, drawing a deadly response from Israeli troops, including yesterday. Gaza officials said troops killed at least four young Palestinians. NPR's Daniel Estrin has our story from Jerusalem, as both sides are trying to negotiate a truce.

(CROSSTALK)

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Gaza health officials say the protesters killed include three 17-year-olds and a 20-year-old. They say dozens of protesters were rushed to hospitals with bullet wounds. The Israeli army said it was responding to Palestinians throwing rocks and grenades at the fence. But despite all this, the Hamas militant group that rules in Gaza didn't vow revenge. And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that there had been calm. Retired Israeli Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser.

YOSSI KUPERWASSER: Definitely, this was nothing extraordinary and much, much, much less than what people who were worried about and thought that we should expect some sort of escalation - widescale escalation. That has not happened.

ESTRIN: Just days ago, it appeared as if the two sides were on the brink of major fighting when rocket fire from Gaza hit a house in Israel. And Israel carried out airstrikes on Hamas. Israel sent more troops to the Gaza border, prepping for yesterday's mass demonstration. But Hamas officials reined in the protests. They're in talks with Egyptian mediators to reduce violence in exchange for Israel relaxing some of its restrictions on Gaza to help ease an economic crisis there. Despite some minor cross-border violence this morning, Hamas claims it's close to reaching a deal. Israel hasn't confirmed that. But Israel does seek quiet with elections just a little over a week away. The question is if an agreement can be reached with Israel and Hamas that will put an end to a year of Gaza protests that cost the lives of some 200 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier. Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.

(SOUNDBITE OF RYAN HEISING AND MATTHEW SALTZ'S "CASCADE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.