Hundreds bury boy killed in Gaza clash as conflicting reports surround his death

Hamas says 12-year-old was shot dead by IDF troops; friend says he was hit by tear gas canister; AP reports army has evidence showing he was struck by rock thrown by protester

Palestinian mourners carry the body of 12-year-old Palestinian boy Shady Abdel Aal, who was killed during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence September 15, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
Palestinian mourners carry the body of 12-year-old Palestinian boy Shady Abdel Aal, who was killed during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence September 15, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

Hundreds of Palestinians attended the funeral Saturday of a 12-year-old boy killed on the Gaza border, as conflicting reports emerged about the circumstances of his death.

Israel’s military said its evidence shows the 12-year-old was hit by a rock thrown by protesters, and Gaza rights groups reported he died after being struck “with a solid object,” the AP reported.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, by contrast, claimed Shady Abdel-al was killed by Israeli fire east of Jabalia in the northern part of the Strip. A spokesman said Saturday he died from head wounds, without elaborating.

Mohammed, a 12 year-old friend also from Jabalia refugee camp, said he was with Abdel Aal when he was hit.

“We were throwing stones at the fence,” he told AFP.

The friend said Shady had been hit by a tear gas canister fired by Israeli soldiers and collapsed instantly.

Hundreds of family members and friends attended the boy’s funeral Saturday, with some calling for revenge.

“God burn those that burned my heart and killed my son,” said his mother Umm Shadi, who has eight other children.

“What is my son guilty of? He is 12 years old,” she added through tears.

She said her son had been going to the protests in recent months but she had been opposed. “I banned him but he was going behind our backs,” said the grieving mother.

The ministry initially said he was 14 and a medical source had named him as Mustafa Abed Rabbo.

“He used to go every Friday to the marches like thousands of other people. This Friday was his destiny to die as a martyr,” the boy’s father, Abdel-Aziz Abdel-al, told Reuters.

Protester Hashem Hassan told Reuters he witnessed the boy being shot: “He threw a few stones, which flew just a few yards. He posed no threat.”

In May, the Gaza health ministry removed 8-month-old Layla al-Ghandour from their official death toll of Palestinians killed in border clashes with Israeli troops after reports suggested she died from a preexisting medical condition, not from Israeli tear gas as the ministry had claimed.

The mother of Layla Ghandour holds her at the morgue of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on May 15, 2018. (AFP / MAHMUD HAMS)

Ghandour’s death intensified condemnation of Israel over the violence, and her funeral was filmed and featured on global TV news broadcasts and newspaper front pages.

A Gazan doctor told the Associated Press the infant had a preexisting medical condition and he did not believe her death was caused by tear gas. The Guardian at the time quoted a hospital report that listed “heart defects since birth” in Ghandour and that she suffered a “severe stop in blood circulation and respiration.”

Dr. Ashraf Al-Qidra, director of public relations for the ministry, later said Ghandour was already dead when she arrived at the hospital and the cause of her death “wasn’t clear.”

In June, a Hamas operative, captured by Israel during a failed effort to breach the border fence, told investigators that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar paid Ghandour’s family NIS 8,000 ($2,206) to falsely tell the media that the infant had died due to tear gas inhalation at the border protests.

Ghandour had originally been listed among the 60 Palestinians killed during massive border protests on the Gaza fence on May 14 and 15. Almost all of the other fatalities from those days were later acknowledged by Hamas to be its members.

Tensions along the Gaza border have been high since March, which marked the start of a series of violent protests along the security fence, known collectively as the “March of Return.” About 130 Gazans have been killed, according to AP figures; Hamas has acknowledged that dozens were its members. An Israeli soldier was killed by Palestinian sniper fire.

The violence reached a peak on May 14, when over 40,000 Palestinians took part in a violent riot along the border, according to the army, as well as smaller protests the next day. Initially the Gaza health ministry said at least 62 people — including Ghandour — were killed over the two days and a Hamas official said at least 50 of them were members of the terror group.

The clashes at the border, which Israel says are being orchestrated by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, have included regular rock and Molotov cocktail attacks on troops, as well as shooting and IED attacks aimed at IDF soldiers and attempts to breach the border fence.

Palestinian protesters watch as tear gas canisters fired by Israeli forces comes through black smoke of burning tires during a demonstration along the border fence east of Gaza City on September 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

Gaza protesters have also launched incendiary kites and balloons into Israel, sparking fires that have destroyed forests, burned crops, and killed livestock.

On Friday, 12,000 Palestinians participated in weekly demonstrations along the border with Israel. The army said rioters burned tires and hurled rocks at Israeli soldiers, who responded according to open-fire regulations.

In several incidents, grenades and bombs were hurled at the troops. Shrapnel from one pipe bomb lightly injured an IDF officer who was treated at the scene. In response the military said an aircraft and a tank struck two Hamas posts.

Israel says its actions — and in particular the use of live ammunition — are necessary to defend the border and stop mass infiltrations from the territory. Israel has accused the Hamas terror group of encouraging the protests and using them as cover to attempt to carry out terror attacks, including firing at troops and attempting to breach the border fence.

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