Gaza death toll at 45, as Palestinian teenager dies

Gaza death toll rises to 45, as Palestinian teenager succumbs to wounds
4 min read
28 April, 2018
A fifteen year old Palestinian boy is the latest casualty of the deadly protests that have rocked Gaza, bringing the death toll to 45.
Forty-five Palestinians have been killed by Israel since protests began in Gaza [Getty]
A Palestinian teenager has succumbed to his wounds early Saturday, after being shot by Israeli forces following a day of deadly protests in the Gaza Strip, bringing the death toll to 45 after weeks of bloodshed.  

Azzam Oweida, 15, was hit in the head during protests in southern Gaza on Friday, the city’s health ministry said.

The death brings the number of people killed to four and hundreds wounded in the fifth consecutive Friday of protests, where thousands of Palestinains gathered near the heavily guarded border.

Dozens of young men burned tyres and threw stones a few hundred metres from the border, with Israeli soldiers firing at unarmed demonstrators.

Over 154 other people were hospitalised for gunshot wounds and tear gas inhalation on Friday, Gaza's health ministry said.

A 22-year-old freelance photographer was among those shot, the ministry said.

The past few weeks have seen tensions rise between Hamas-ruled Gaza and Israel.

Mass protests erupted on 30 March - dubbed "Great Return March" - which have centred on the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, after they were expelled following the 1948 creation of Israel.

Israel says the right of return would mean the end of the Jewish state, and accuses the Palestinian party Hamas of using the protests as a pretext for violence.

The protests along the Gaza border quickly turned deadly, with Israeli forces responding with live ammunition. At least 1,600 protesters have been wounded by gunfire or needed treatment for tear gas inhalation in the weeks of protests.

No Israelis have been reported hurt.

Around 10,000 people have taken part in the protests along the border Friday, with the Israeli army saying it responded with "riot dispersal means" despite widespread criticism for the use of gunfire.

The Israeli army also claimed that its forces only open fire in self-defence or to stop protesters attempting to breach the barrier separating the coastal enclave from Israel.

The Israeli military said that at one point on Friday protesters had used "explosive devices, hand grenades and firebombs" as they attempted a mass breach of the border fence.

In what the military described as a direct response to the protests, overnight strikes targeted the besieged coastal city's ports, damaging two boats.

A statement released by the Israeli military said that its warplanes "targeted six military targets belonging to the Hamas terror organisation's naval force in the Gaza Strip".

The statement did not specify the location of the targets.

Palestinian eyewitnesses at the port said that the two boats were badly damaged, believed to be the first time Israeli aircraft has targeted boats in the Strip since the 2014 war.

Demonstrations are expected to spike again in the lead up to 14 May, when the United States is expected to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Israel has drawn harsh criticism from rights groups along with calls for investigations by the UN and the EU.

Earlier on Friday, the UN high commissioner for human rights urged Israel to refrain from using excessive force against Palestinians.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini called for an independent investigation.

A draft UN Security Council statement urging restraint and calling for an investigation of the violence was blocked by the US.

Veteran US politician and former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders delivered a blistering critique of the Israeli leadership and its response to the recent Gaza protests, lambasting "the reactionary policies of Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu" and "the inhumane blockade of Gaza".

"The presence of Hamas members among a crowd of tens of thousands does not justify the level of violence we saw, and frankly it's amazing to me that anyone would find that point controversial"

Human rights groups have similarly slammed Israel's excessive use of violence.

"While some Palestinian demonstrators have thrown stones and other objects towards the fence, it's hard to believe how this would be an imminent danger to the lives of well-equipped soldiers protected by snipers, tanks and drones," Amnesty International has said.

Israel said it will not investigate the killing of protesters in Gaza, rejected calls for an independent probe and threatened to "expand" its response.