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Israel hits Hamas base but Gaza protests fade

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel hit a Hamas base in an air raid Thursday in response to gunfire from the Gaza Strip, but weeks of deadly mass protests and clashes along the border may be reaching an end as Ramadan begins.

Tens of thousands have protested along Gaza’s border with Israel since March 30 calling for Palestinian refugees to be able to return to their homes now inside Israel.

The largest demonstrations coincided with the move of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Monday, which saw Israeli forces kill some 60 Palestinians.

The death toll led to international condemnations of Israel and calls for an independent investigation.

Israel rejects those calls, saying its actions are necessary to stop mass infiltrations from the blockaded Palestinian enclave controlled by Islamist movement Hamas.

On Wednesday, Israeli officials seized upon remarks by a senior Hamas member who said 50 of the 62 Palestinians killed this week were members of the group, arguing it showed the protests were not peaceful.

But the Hamas official, Salah Bardawil, did not give further details about whether they were members of the group’s armed or political wing, or what they were doing at the time they were killed.

Another Hamas official did not confirm the number, but said those participating were demonstrating peacefully.

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