Two Palestinian teens were reportedly killed Friday in clashes with Israeli troops along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, in what the IDF called “especially violent” riots.
The Hamas-run health ministry identified one of those killed as 17-year-old Ali al-Ashqar. It said he was shot in the neck in northern Gaza Strip. A second teenager was shot in the stomach east of Gaza City, the ministry said, later identifying him as Khaled al-Rabaee, 14.
The ministry said another 66 people were injured in the clashes, 38 from live fire.
The IDF had no immediate comment on the deaths but said some 6,200 Palestinians took part in the weekly “March of Return,” including hundreds that rioted.
“The riots were especially violent and included the throwing of a large number of explosive devices, hand grenades and fire bombs at the fence and IDF soldier,” the army said, adding that there were extensive attempts to damage the border barrier.
During the clashes Israeli soldiers arrested two Palestinians who tried to enter Israel from northern Gaza, the IDF said.
The suspects were not armed and following their arrest were taken in for further questioning, the army said.
A spokesman for Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza, blamed Israel for the Palestinians’ deaths and warned of a possible response.
“Israel will bear the consequences for this crime,” the Kan public broadcaster quoted Hazem Qassem saying.
The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, said the deaths were “appalling” and called on Israel to “calibrate its use of force, use lethal force only as a last resort, and only in response to imminent threat of death or serious injury.”
Mladenov made the comment on Twitter, also saying the Palestinian “protests must be peaceful,” and calling to end “the cycle of violence.”
The deadly clashes came just days after Israel lifted restrictions on fuel deliveries to Gaza, a week after curbing them by half due to rocket and mortar fire from the coastal enclave.
Israel has responded to the violence with airstrikes in Gaza on Hamas targets, in keeping with its policy of holding the terror group responsible for any attacks emanating from territory under its control.
Since the outbreak of protests on the Gaza border last year, Israel has intermittently taken a number of steps to curb outbreaks of violence from the coastal territory, such as closing border crossings, cutting fuel shipments and reducing the permitted fishing area off the coast of the Strip. It has rolled back such moves following decreases in violence.
A deal was brokered several months ago by UN and Egyptian officials to end several violent flareups in recent months between Israel and Hamas, which have fought three devastating wars since 2008, and to help stabilize the territory and prevent a humanitarian collapse.