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KIBBUTZ YAD MORDECHAI, Israel (AP) — A few hundred Israelis protested close to the Gaza Strip on Friday to demand the return of a captive and the stays of two Israeli troopers held by the territory’s militant Hamas rulers.

The protest got here amid heightened tensions following the arrest of a senior Palestinian militant within the occupied West Financial institution earlier this week. Israel has closed roads close to Gaza and despatched in troop reinforcements because it braces for a potential revenge assault.

Israeli Protection Minister Benny Gantz visited communities close to Gaza on Friday, saying authorities had been getting ready “actions that will remove the threat from this region,” with out elaborating.

The protesters had been led by the household of Hadar Goldin, who together with Oron Shaul was killed within the 2014 Gaza battle. Hamas continues to be holding their stays, in addition to two Israeli civilians who strayed into Gaza and are believed to be mentally unwell, hoping to alternate them for a few of the 1000’s of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

The protesters pushed via two police checkpoints on a highway close to the heavily-guarded Gaza frontier earlier than stopping at a 3rd.

They held a big signal demanding the return of the troopers’ stays in addition to Avraham Mengistu, an Israeli of Ethiopian descent in his late 20s or early 30s. Mengistu’s household took half within the protest.

In June, Hamas released a rare video displaying one other captive, Hisham al-Sayid, an Arab citizen of Israel, in a hospital mattress with an oxygen masks and an IV drip. It stated his well being has lately deteriorated. Reporters masking the protest didn’t hear any point out of al-Sayid.

Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies which have fought 4 wars and dozens of smaller skirmishes since Hamas seized management of Gaza 15 years in the past.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a decent blockade over the territory all through that point. Israel says the closure is required to stop Hamas from build up its navy capabilities, whereas critics say the coverage quantities to collective punishment of Gaza’s 2 million Palestinian residents.

Israel says there might be no main strikes towards lifting the blockade till the troopers’ stays and captive civilians are launched. Israel and Hamas have held quite a few rounds of Egyptian-mediated talks on a potential swap.

Gantz in the meantime warned Hamas and different militant teams that Israel wouldn’t tolerate threats on communities close to Gaza.

“We will operate with internal resilience and external strength in order to restore routine life in Israel’s south,” he stated, “We do not seek conflict, yet we will not hesitate to defend our citizens, if required.”

The newest escalation started when Israeli forces arrested a senior member of the Islamic Jihad militant group within the West Financial institution city of Jenin late Monday. A teenage member of the group was killed in a gunbattle between the Israeli troops and Palestinian militants.

Ahmed Mudalal, an Islamic Jihad official in Gaza, stated the group had made calls for of Israel via Egyptian mediators, together with the discharge of the detained militant and one other prisoner, a halt to West Financial institution raids and the lifting of the Gaza blockade. He stated they haven’t but obtained a response.

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Related Press author Fares Akram in Gaza Metropolis, Gaza Strip, contributed to this report.

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