KASHMIR, India — Police shot dead a teenage boy on Saturday in restive Indian Kashmir during a protest against Israel’s military offensive against Gaza, officials said.
The youngster’s death marked the first fatality in a string of demonstrations across the Himalayan territory that have been staged against the Israeli military campaign.
The boy, a ninth-grade student, was killed in the village of Khudwani, 60 kilometers (40 miles) south of Srinagar, the main city of the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir.
“The boy died in (police) firing on anti-Israel protesters who were also angry about injuries suffered by other protesters during earlier demonstrations,” a senior police officer told AFP.
A police statement called the killing “unfortunate.”
Local residents said it was believed that the boy was hit by a bullet while sitting in a shop and was not part of the protest, but police could not immediately confirm this.
The Kashmiri boy’s death came as Israeli airstrikes and shelling killed more than 25 people across Gaza on Saturday, among them children, raising the toll in 12 days of violence to over 400, according to medics in Gaza City. Two Israeli civilians and 18 soldiers have been killed and nearly 2,000 rockets have been fired by Palestinian groups at Israeli cities since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge.
The Indian police officer said the Kashmiri youngster, identified as Suhail Ahmad Lone, was believed to be around 14 or 15.
The police officer asked for anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Dozens of protesters have been injured in the protests against the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.
The protests have been occurring on an almost daily basis in the Kashmir valley, which has been at the center of a quarter-century revolt against Indian rule.
The demonstrators, some holding placards with “Save Gaza” written on them, chanted “Down with Israel” and “Down with America,” and hurled stones at government forces.
Indian government forces are seeking to prevent the protests from spreading in the volatile region.
On Thursday, the Kashmir valley was mostly shut in response to a call by separatist leaders to protest against the Israeli military campaign.
About a dozen rebel groups have been fighting Indian forces since 1989 for independence or merger of Kashmir with Pakistan, which also claims the territory.
The fighting, and India’s tense relations with nuclear-armed rival Pakistan, have made Kashmir one of the most militarized zones in the world and has left tens of thousands dead, mostly civilians.
Israel has long been a key arms supplier to the Indian government. Israel’s relations with Hindu-majority India have long been viewed with suspicion and hostility by the South Asian nation’s large Muslim minority.