Liberman: Leaders of Hamas are the only culprits

Army said to find slain Gaza teen was trying to damage border fence when shot

EU joins US, UN in urging Israel to investigate Friday's killing of Mohammed Ayoub, 15; IDF says he apparently crossed barbed wire barrier and was heading to main border fence

The mother (C) of 15-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Ibrahim Ayoub, who was reportedly shot and killed by the IDF during clashes along the Israel-Gaza border, sits as another person raises his portrait, among other relatives as they mourn in their home in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza strip on April 21, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

An initial IDF investigation into the killing of a 15-year-old Palestinian boy during protests along the Gaza fence indicated that he was trying to damage the barrier, Channel 10 TV reported Saturday.

The Israeli army said Friday it was looking into the death of the teen, identified as Mohammed Ibrahim Ayoub. Videos circulated on social media appeared to show Ayoub having been shot in the head. The killing drew harsh international condemnation, with the EU adding  its voice on Saturday.

The army said that Ayoub had apparently crossed over an initial barbed wire barrier and was heading toward the main border fence when he was shot, Channel 10 reported.

The army later released photographs showing young boys taking part in attempts to breach the barrier.

A photo released by the IDF on April 21, 2018 claims to show young boys taking part in attempts to damage the Gaza border fence during protests. (IDF spokesperson)

Earlier, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman blamed Hamas for the death of the teenager.

“The leaders of Hamas are the only culprits in the death of the boy, the cowardly leaders who hide behind children and women and send them forward as human shields so that they can continue digging attack tunnels and carrying out terror attacks against the State of Israel,” Liberman said.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, left, speaks to IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi in a field just outside the Gaza Strip on February 20, 2018. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

The defense minister urged the citizens of Gaza not to approach the security fence dividing Israel and the Gaza Strip.

A Palestinian photographer who took the picture of Ayoub after he was killed said the incident happened a fair distance from the fence.

Abed Alhakeem Abu Rish on Saturday told The Associated Press he saw the teen standing about 150 meters (164 yards) from the fence. He says Ayyoub was about to take cover behind a low sand berm when he was shot and fell to the ground.

Abu Rish’s photographs show Ayoub as he collapses head first and then lies motionless in the same spot.

Relatives of 15-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Ibrahim Ayoub, who was shot and killed by Israeli security forces during clashes along the Israel-Gaza border, sit together in mourning in his family home in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza strip on April 21, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

His mother said she had urged him not to go to the fence, but he had not listened. “He told his cousin to tell me he would be back in an hour,” Hebrew media quoted her as saying at the mourning tent.

The European Union on Saturday urged the Israeli military to “refrain from using lethal force against unarmed protesters,” after four Palestinians, including Ayoub, were killed by army fire in the protests.

Ibrahim and Raeda Ayoub, 42, parents of teenager Mohammed, who was killed April 20, 2018, during a protest along Gaza’s border with Israel, east of Jebaliya, at his family house in Jebaliya refugee camp, Gaza Strip, Saturday, April 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

In Saturday’s statement, the European Union’s diplomatic service called for a full investigation of Friday’s shootings.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan accused the EU of encouraging Hamas by making hasty statements before all the facts were known. The EU were “firing on automatic,” he said.

Friday marked the fourth round of weekly mass border protests, led by the Hamas terror group that rules Gaza.

Palestinians pull barbed wire from the border fence with Israel during weekly Friday clashes, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 20, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

US President Donald Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt also said on Twitter that “A full investigation by Israel of Mohammed Ayoub’s death is underway so that we will be able to understand what happened.”

The United Nations envoy to the region on Friday slammed Israel’s response to the Gaza protests as “outrageous” and called on the IDF to stop shooting children.

“It is OUTRAGEOUS to shoot at children!” tweeted UN Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov.

“How does the killing of a child in #Gaza today help #peace? It doesn’t! It fuels anger and breeds more killing. #Children must be protected from #violence, not exposed to it, not killed! This tragic incident must be investigated,” he wrote.

Footage circulated on social media allegedly showing the body of 15-year-old Muhammad Ibrahim Ayoub, who Palestinians say was shot dead by IDF soldiers during clashes in the Gaza Strip on April 20, 2018. (screenshot)

However, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon called on the international body to condemn Hamas’s use of children as a cover for their terror activities.

“Hamas continues to encourage violence against Israel while rioters use Molotov Cocktails and other means to damage the border fence and try and return to Israeli territory,” Danon said.

“I call on the UN representatives to condemn Hamas for encouraging violence, continuing to strive to create instability, and the despicable exploitation of women and children by placing them in harm’s way,” Danon said.

Some 3,000 Palestinians protested along the Gaza border with Israel on Friday, burning tires and flying flaming kites across the frontier to set Israeli fields ablaze, witnesses and the army said. Soldiers responded with tear gas and live fire, killing the four, according to the Hamas run-health ministry.

The kites are part of a new tactic aimed at setting fields on the Israeli side on fire. Most kites were stitched together in the colors of the Palestinian flag. One white kite bore the swastika.

In all, the Gaza ministry said that some 445 people were injured, including 96 from live fire.

A Palestinian man hurls stones at Israeli troops during a protest at the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, Friday, April 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

These brought to 39 the number of fatalities from the border demonstrations and clashes dubbed the March of Return, which took place for the fourth time Friday, according to the health ministry figures. The numbers could not be verified by Israel.

The Palestinian Authority said Friday it would ask the UN Human Rights Council to establish a commission to carry out an independent investigation of the Israeli military’s killing and wounding of Palestinians during protests in Gaza.

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