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Funerals held for Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza

In an area near the Israel-Gaza border where violence erupted a day earlier, large crowds attended funerals Saturday for the 16 Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers. Thousands of Palestinians had marched to the border at the start of a demonstration that’s expected to last for the next six weeks. Associated Press reporter Josef Federman joins Hari Sreenivasan from Jerusalem with more.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    In the area near the Israel-Gaza border, large crowds attended funerals today for the 16 Palestinians killed yesterday by Israeli soldiers. Thousands of Palestinians have marched to the border at the start of a demonstration that's expected to last for the next six weeks. Israel is blaming the bloodshed on Hamas and is warning of possible action inside Gaza. Joining me now via Skype from Jerusalem is Joseph Federman of the Associated Press. Joseph, besides the funerals, what's happening today?

  • JOSEPH FEDERMAN:

    Yeah, looks like today they are taking a bit of a breather. The size of the crowds is down significantly. There have been clashes but they're very sporadic today. But like I say, it's more of a breather than an end to this and we're expecting things to pick up in the coming weeks, most of the time on Fridays which is the Muslim holy day. That's one of the biggest events planned.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Who's organizing the protests and what's the goal?

  • JOSEPH FEDERMAN:

    Yeah, it's the Hamas militant group which controls Gaza. They're the force behind this and they're doing this for a bunch of reasons. Basically Hamas controlled Gaza for over a decade. They seized control of Gaza in 2007 from the Palestinian government that rules in the West Bank and since that time the territory has been under a blockade by Israel and by Egypt. And now, the Palestinian government in the West Bank also is putting some pressure on Hamas. So they're feeling it from all directions. The result is that conditions are very bad right now in Gaza. Unemployment is over 40%,there's only electricity for a few hours a day. Conditions are very difficult and Hamas is running out of options. So now they're doing this and the ideas I think to kind of stir things up to press Israel to draw attention to the conditions in Gaza without falling and plunging into another war.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    What are actions that the Israeli government can take inside Gaza?

  • JOSEPH FEDERMAN:

    Well, what they've done so far is they've basically turned the border area into a 'no-go' zone and what you saw yesterday, we had over 700 people were shot on the Gaza side with live fire by Israel. They are not allowing people to get anywhere near the border fence, probably about 200 to 300 yards. Anybody who comes closer risks being shot. In addition, the army today issued a new threat. They said we're not just going to act along the border area, we know who is behind this – Hamas is behind this and we reserve the right to act against Hamas and any other militant groups in Gaza and in other areas. So that's the type of escalation we could be seeing down the road.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And what about the international community weighing in on what is happening on the ground?

  • JOSEPH FEDERMAN:

    Yeah, there's a lot of concern. Yesterday, the Security Council had an emergency meeting, there was a call by the U.N. Secretary General for an investigation, there were concerns that Israel may be using excessive force. The European Union put out a statement today saying any violence any shooting should be properly investigated. So I think that the main concern people want to see restraint, they don't want to see this spin out of control. We've had three wars in Gaza between Israel and Hamas over the past decade and I don't think anybody wants that to happen again. So they're really really playing with fire with this one.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. Joseph Federman of the Associated Press joining us via Skype from Jerusalem. Thanks so much.

  • JOSEPH FEDERMAN:

    Thank you.

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