Tension mounts over 11-year-old Gaza boy’s killing at border rally

GAZA CITY: There are conflicting reports surrounding the death of a boy at a Gaza border rally that Palestinians initially blamed on Israel.
Israel’s military claimed their evidence shows the 11-year-old was hit by a rock thrown by protesters. Two Gaza rights groups said he died after being struck “with a solid object.”
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Shadi Abdel-Al was killed by Israeli fire. A spokesman said on Saturday he died from head wounds. The boy is the youngest fatality from Israeli gunfire.
The ministry removed a baby from their official death toll in May after The Associated Press reported she died from a pre-existing medical condition, not from Israeli tear gas as it had claimed.
Hamas has led protests since March partially over an Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the territory.
Israel’s tactics against the protests have drawn international condemnation.
“He used to go every Friday to the marches like thousands of other people. This Friday was his destiny to die as a martyr,” said the boy’s father, Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Al.
Another Palestinian, 28-year-old Hashem Hassan, said he saw Abdel-Al being shot 70 meters from the fence: “He threw a few stones, which flew just a few yards. He posed no threat.”
Asked about Abdel-Al’s death, a military spokeswoman said only that troops had kept to their open-fire regulations.
Friday’s deaths brought to 177 the number of Palestinians killed since the sometimes violent demonstrations were launched on March 30 to press demands against Israel.
Palestinian medical officials earlier said Israelis killed three Palestinians, including the 11-year-old boy, and wounded at least 248 others taking part in weekly protests at the fortified Gaza Strip border.
The Israeli military said it used force necessary to repel 13,000 Palestinians who massed at several points at the fence.
Some hurled rocks, firebombs and grenades at troops under cover of smoke from burning tires, injuring a soldier, and nine Palestinians briefly crossed into Israel, the military said.
Since March 30, Gaza has also seen shelling exchanges between the coastal enclave’s Hamas rulers and Israel. An Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper and Israel has lost tracts of forest and farmland to cross-border incendiary attacks.
But Washington has backed its ally in accusing Hamas of staging the mass-mobilization to distract from Gaza’s poverty and governance problems and to provide cover for armed Palestinian border incursions. Hamas has denied this.
The Israeli military said that, twice this week, its patrols discovered and dismantled bombs that had been planted for use against them at the fence.
Early on Friday, several Palestinians crawled to the fence to throw a pipebomb at troops, who fired back, the military said. There was no word of casualties.
The protesters want rights to lands Palestinians lost during the 1948 war of Israel’s foundation, as well as the easing of a crippling blockade that Israel, with the help of neighboring Egypt, has placed on Gaza to isolate Hamas and deny it weaponry.
UN and Egyptian mediators have been trying to reach a deal to calm Gaza, where Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in the last decade.
The brokering efforts have been complicated by Hamas’s feuding with Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has restricted funding to Gaza.

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