Tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied in the Gaza Strip on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of their mass protests along the Israeli border, as the territory's Hamas leaders largely restrained the crowds ahead of a hoped-for cease-fire deal, the AP reports. Demonstrators largely kept their distance from the border, though small crowds of activists approached the perimeter fence and threw stones and explosives toward Israeli troops on the other side. The forces responded with tear gas and opened fire, killing three Palestinians and wounding 64. Hamas had pledged to keep the crowds a safe distance from the fence as Egyptian mediators were working to cement a deal that Hamas hopes will ease a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the crowded territory.
Hamas officials say that Israel is offering a package of economic incentives in exchange for calm along the volatile border. Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, says the group had received "positive signs" from the Egyptians. He added that the Egyptian team was to return to Israel on Sunday to continue the talks. Saturday's protest comes at a sensitive time, with Israel and Hamas, bitter enemies that have fought three wars and dozens of smaller skirmishes, both having a strong interest in keeping things quiet. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking his fourth consecutive term in April 9 elections, and Hamas facing growing unrest in Gaza as a result of worsening conditions after more than a decade of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.
(Read more Israel and Palestinians