The Health Ministry in Gaza reported that four Palestinians were killed and 156 wounded by Israeli live fire on Friday as thousands of Gazans protested along the border in the fourth consecutive week of the "March of Return."
The ministry said a total of 729 Palestinians were wounded in the protests by, among other things, live fire, tear gas inhalation and rubber bullets. Those killed were named as Ahmad Nabil Abu Aqel, 25, Mohammed Ayoub, 15, Ahmad Rashad Al-Atamana, 24, and Said Abd Al-Aal Abu Taha, 19. Of those wounded, 305 were taken to hospital, 4 of them in serious condition and 166 in moderate condition.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov called for an investigation into the killing of the 15-year old, describing it as outrageous and adding that it "fuels anger and breeds more killing."
Palestinian medical sources said the teenager was standing with a group around 100-150 meters from the border when he was shot, while Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said all responsibility rests with Hamas.
- Ahead of border protests, IDF drops leaflets warning Gazans: 'Hamas endangers your lives'
- An IDF general in the crosshairs: Islamic Jihad releases menacing video ahead of Friday's Gaza protest
- Marching in Gaza, my brother risks death - to feel free
According to Israeli military assessments, some 3,000 people protested at five points along the border. The IDF said that some protesters burned tires and, on several occasions, tried to fly kites with firebombs attached to them into Israeli territory. Several of those kites reached into Israeli territory and were taken down. No casualties were reported.
The march is part of a month-and-a-half-long protest organized by Hamas near the border fence. This week, the march is dedicated to the so-called martyrs that have died in previous weeks. Last week, the march was centered around burning Israeli flags.
The Hamas government in Gaza built sand barriers along the areas where the protestors gathered to protect those participating, as in previous weeks.
The media has reported a number of attempts over the past week, in particular by Egypt, to convince Hamas to stop the mass protests and the marches. The requests were rebuffed by Hamas, with the claim the protests are a popular movement backed by all Palestinian factions.
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, which is based on the date in the Gregorian calendar for the establishment of the State of Israel.
In preparation for the protests, the IDF dropped leaflets in Gaza on Friday morning warning residents against trying to use violence against Israeli civilians and soldiers, as well as to damage, cross or even come near the border fence.
The leaflets, signed by the “IDF headquarters,” was addressed to Gaza residents. "You are participating in violent disturbances. Hamas is taking advantage of you to carry out terrorist attacks. The IDF is prepared for any scenario. Stay away from the fence and do not attempt to damage it."
Last week, over 10,000 people participated in protests along the border fence. The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza reported that one person was killed and 969 injured, including 233 who were injured by live fire from Israeli troops. Some 30,000 people came to the border area, said protest organizers.
According to the IDF, protesters have tried numerous times to damage the border fence and cross it, as well as throwing explosive devices and firebombs at Israel forces. In one attempt, demonstrators tried to attack Israeli forces using a kite carrying a firebomb. The kite fell inside the Gaza Strip and no one was injured. Other similar attempts caused a number of fires inside Israel, but no injuries.
On Thursday, Islamic Jihad published a video threatening Israeli soldiers ahead of the weekly demonstration.
The clip shows the group’s operatives looking through the scope of a rifle at Israeli military figures, including Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories. The video ends with a slide reading, “You’re killing our people in cold blood and think that you’re protected, but our snipers’ sights are on your top commanders.”
Since the beginning of the violent demonstrations along the border, 34 Palestinians have allegedly been killed by IDF fire and the bodies of two of them who tried to attack an IDF position are still being held by Israel.