Palestinian, 15, Said Killed by Israeli Forces in Gaza Border Clashes

Israeli warplanes carry out intensive airstrikes on southern Gaza in response to rocket fire, explosive devices

FILE PHOTO: An air defense system activated by Israeli forces explodes over the northern Gaza Strip, January 10, 2009.
\ YANNIS BEHRAKIS/ REUTERS

A 15-year-old Palestinian died from Israeli gunfire during nighttime skirmishes along the Israel-Gaza border, the Strip's Health Ministry said. Saif A-Din Abu Zaied was wounded in the head Wednesday and died at a hospital, the ministry said early Thursday.

The circumstances were not immediately known, but the incident occurred as dozens of youths engaged in “nighttime confusion,” a more violent form of protests involving firebombs and laser lights directed at Israeli forces along the border fence.

Saif A-Din Abu Zaied.

The night skirmishes are complementary to the weekly daytime protests that Gaza’s Hamas rulers have staged for a year.

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Israeli warplanes carried out intensive airstrikes on the southern Gaza Strip early on Thursday in response to balloons carrying explosives and a rocket being fired across the border into Israel, the Israeli army said.

Israeli warplanes fired six missiles aimed at military facilities belonging to the Hamas movement and the Islamic Jihad in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, Al-Quds Radio reported, quoting security officials and eyewitnesses.

The Israeli military confirmed on Twitter that "fighter jets and aircraft struck several military targets in a Hamas compound in Gaza." No injuries were reported, but the facilities were destroyed and nearby houses were also damaged, Al-Quds said.

The IDF added that it held Hamas accountable for the cross-border attacks, which it said hit an empty area in southern Israel. No damage or injuries were reported and no one had yet claimed responsibility for firing the rocket.

Every night since February, Palestinian young men known as the "night disturbance unit" have been gathering by the border with Israel as part of the "Marches of Return" protests, which began in late March last year.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have taken part in the demonstrations, demanding Palestinians be allowed to return to what is now Israel.

At the end of February, UN investigators said there is evidence pointing to crimes against humanity by Israeli security forces who shot, injured and killed Palestinians during the massive protests last year.

A UN Commission of Inquiry consisting of independent human rights experts counted 189 killed and estimated more than 9,000 injured Palestinians. Other counts put the number of Palestinian victims at 260 and the injured in excess of 26,000.

One Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper and four others were injured during the demonstrations, the UN report said.

The experts acknowledged that some demonstrators were members of armed groups and that the protest organizers, which included militants from the Hamas movement, encouraged the use of incendiary kites and balloons, causing extensive damage and fear in southern Israel.

However, it only found two incidents, one in May and one in October, when Israeli forces actually faced imminent threats to their lives and were therefore within their rights in using live ammunition.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the report, saying that it "is setting new records of hypocrisy and lies, out of an obsessive hatred of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East."