GAZA (Reuters) - A 15-year-old Palestinian youth died on Saturday after being shot the previous day by Israeli troops during protests along the Gaza border, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
Israeli forces have killed 42 Palestinians since Gaza residents began staging protests along the border fence on March 30. The demonstrators are pressing for a right of return for refugees and their descendants to what is now Israel.
The teenager killed was identified as Azzam Aweida. Hundreds of people gathered at his home in the southern town of Khan Younis to attend the funeral.
Mourners carried his body, wrapped in a Palestinian flag, to a nearby mosque for prayers before burial. “My son is a martyr and I am very proud of him,” said his father, Helal Aweida.
The Palestinians say Israel is using excessive force against the protesters, 2,000 of whom have been wounded by gunfire.
Israel’s use of live fire has drawn international criticism.
Israel says it is protecting its borders and takes such action only when protesters, some hurling stones and rolling burning tires, come too close to the border fence.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein on Friday called the loss of life deplorable and said a “staggering number” of injuries had been caused by live ammunition.
The Gaza Health Ministry said that three Palestinians were killed on Friday and 200 were wounded by gunfire. The Israeli military said about 14,000 Gazans had been participating in what it described as “riots” and that some had tried to breach the frontier.
Gaza is run by the Islamist Hamas movement, which Israel and the West designate a terrorist organization. Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from the territory in 2005 but, citing security concerns, maintains tight control over its land and sea borders. Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza.
More than two million people are packed into the narrow coastal enclave, where poverty and unemployment rates are high.
The protests come at a time of growing frustration for Palestinians as prospects for an independent state look poor.
U.S.-led peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014. Efforts by the Trump administration to revive negotiations have shown no sign of progress.
Dubbed the “Great March of Return”, the protest action is to continue until May 15 when, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh says, the Gaza demonstrations will be replicated elsewhere along Israel’s frontiers.
May 15 is the date the Palestinians mark as the “Naqba”, or “Catastrophe”, when hundreds of thousands fled or were driven out of their homes during violence in the 1948-49 war between the newly-created state of Israel and its Arab neighbours.
Israel refuses any right of return, fearing that the country would lose its Jewish majority.
Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Andrew Bolton