GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Two Palestinians including a teenage boy were killed and scores wounded by Israeli fire on Friday, Gaza health officials said, as weekly border rallies organized by the Islamic militant group that rules the territory continued.
The 13-year-old was fatally shot in the head and a 24-year-old man died of gunshot wounds to his leg and abdomen, the Gaza Health Ministry said.
More than 130 wounded were evacuated to hospitals for treatment with at least three in serious condition, the ministry said. About 90 others received first aid.
A paramedic, Mutasem Khatib, said the teenager was throwing stones “very close to the fence” before he was shot.
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“It was a critical injury from the beginning, which damaged a significant portion of his head,” Khatib said in a telephone interview. “He died as soon as we arrived at the hospital.”
The military said thousands of Palestinians participated in the “extremely violent” demonstration. It said troops thwarted numerous Palestinian attempts to breach the border and, in one incident, a grenade was thrown at soldiers. It said it is investigating reports of the teenager’s death.
Hamas, the group that rules Gaza and is sworn to Israel’s destruction, has led three months of protests that turned violent. Over 125 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since they began.
Israel says it is defending its border and nearby communities and accuses Hamas of using the protests as cover for attempts to breach the fence and carry out attacks.
The rallies are aimed in part at drawing attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas seized Gaza in 2007.
Late on Friday afternoon, protesters flocked to five tent camps erected some 300 meters (330 yards) away from the Israeli border. A few dozen ventured to the fence and threw stones and fire bombs toward Israeli forces.
Other Palestinians launched kites and balloons rigged with incendiary materials at neighboring Israeli communities to set fires.
Israel has been battling large fires caused by the flaming kites and arson balloons launched from Gaza that have destroyed forests, burned crops and killed wildlife and livestock.
Palestinians said they downed an Israeli drone in central Gaza that was firing tear gas at protesters. Videos of the episode emerged showing dozens of teenagers gathering to pick up the drone and chanting “God is Great” in Arabic while others fired in the air with pistols.
Associated Press writer Fares Akram in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.