After International Criticism, Israeli Army Investigating Death of 15-year-old Gazan

Mohammed Ayoub's death, which was captured on video, led EU to demand a full investigation while UN Mideast envoy blasted Israel to 'stop killing children'

The mother of Mohammed Ayoub, 14, a Palestinian boy who was shot dead by Israeli troops during clashes at the Israel-Gaza border, shows her son's photo at her house in the northern Gaza Strip April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem  NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
\ MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS

The Israel Defense Forces is investigating the death of 15-year-old Mohammed Ayoub, a Palestinian from Gaza who was shot dead on Friday during protests on the border with Israel, and sparked widespread international criticism of Israel.

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Ayoub's death during the fourth consecutive week of the "March of Return", which was captured on video, sparked anger in Israel and abroad, with the EU demanding a "full investigation" be opened and the UN's Mideast envoy blasting Israel to "stop killing children."

In a statement, the army said there were violent protests along the border with Gaza on Friday and that firebombs and explosives were thrown at soldiers. They said that "when there was no alternative, and all other means failed to prevent danger, [soldiers] fired according to open-fire protocols."

Relatives of 15-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Ibrahim Ayoub pray over his body during his funeral in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza strip on April 20, 2018
STRINGER/AFP

The army also said that "in every case that there are claims that someone died from IDF fire (including the death of the 15-year-old), it is thoroughly investigated. The army works to learn from past events and to minimize the number of those wounded from fire [in the area around the border]".

However, the army said, "Hamas works to actively endanger civilians, and every week places women and children at the front of the riots to serve as 'human shields'. The army urges civilians to avoid the area of the border fence."  

The Israeli military said that all reports of fatal shootings "are thoroughly checked by the relevant command echelons," examined by a fact-finding "assessment mechanism" and findings transferred to the military advocate general.

According to Palestinian medical sources, Ayoub was standing with a group of protesters roughly 100-150 meters from the border when he was shot. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said only Hamas is responsible for his death.

Lieberman said on Twitter that "the only culprits in the death of the ... boy in Gaza are Hamas leaders." He said they are "cowardly leaders who hide behind women and children and send them forward as a human shield, so that they can continue to dig tunnels and carry out terrorist actions against" Israel.

Following widespread outrage over the incident, including the harsh condemnation by UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov, the IDF opened the investigation into the circumstances of the shooting and the events leading up to it. The investigation is likely to be headed by Brig. Gen. Moti Baruch.

Trump's Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt said overnight that Israel would investigate. “A full investigation by Israel of Mohammed Ayoub’s death is underway so that we will be able to understand what happened,” Greenblatt wrote on Saturday. “As we mourn the tragic loss of a young life, we must all resolve to avoid causing more suffering by responses to his death,” he concluded.

The army will carry out the investigation though a process set up after the 2014 Gaza war, when there was need for investigations independent of the army's chain of command. The mechanism was recently reemployed to investigate the death of Yaser Murtaja, a journalist who was shot to death last week at the Gaza border despite wearing a press jacket.

The marches are part of a month-and-a-half-long protest organized by Hamas near the border fence. The committee organizing the protests said the marches will not stop before May 15, at the very least, the day the Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, the “tragedy” of the foundation of the Israel.