Doctors have amputated the leg of a Palestinian boy who threw stones at Israeli troops and whose image went viral after he was shot in clashes on the Gaza border.
A picture of 12-year-old Abdel Rahman Nawfal screaming in pain was widely shared on Palestinian and Arabic social media last week after he was shot near the border fence during the so-called March of Return protests.
The shooting occurred on Tuesday during clashes along the frontier east of Al-Bureij in central Gaza.
He was later taken from Gaza to the West Bank for treatment but doctors were unable to save the leg.
Attempting to smile as he lay on his hospital bed in Ramallah, Nawfal said he had been stoning Israeli soldiers close to the border when he was shot.
“My friends went to throw stones at the army near Al-Bureij camp. I went with them and started to throw stones,” he told AFP. “Soon after I felt the injury.”
He said he dreamed of becoming a doctor and would still like to realize that dream.
To leave Gaza for treatment in the West Bank, Palestinians have to get permits from Israel that critics say are difficult to obtain.
Palestinians in Gaza have engaged in violent clashes with Israeli troops at the border for the past four Fridays, in protests that have seen 40 fatalities — according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry — including that of a 15-year-old Palestinian youth. The Israeli army said the teen was trying to breach the border fence.
Several thousand people were involved in the protests last Friday — the fourth Friday of demonstrations — down from an estimated 10,000 on the third Friday, 20,000 on the second, and 30,000 on the first.
Hamas has acknowledged that several of those killed in recent weeks were its members, and Israel has identified other fatalities as members of terrorist groups.
The 15-year-old’s death and the wounding of other youths brought a scathing response from a senior United Nations official.
“It is OUTRAGEOUS to shoot at children… #Children must be protected from #violence, not exposed to it,” UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov wrote on Twitter.
The Israeli army said on Saturday that it was opening an investigation into the incident, in accordance with standard procedure.
The IDF says its troops only open fire in self-defense or to stop protesters attempting to breach the Hamas-ruled barrier separating the territory from Israel.
It accuses Hamas of using civilian shields, including women and children, as cover for carrying out attacks along the border.
“Every week it places young children and women on the front line of the riots, sending them to the security fence and using them as a ‘human shield’ for the realization of its goals,” the military said in a statement Saturday.
Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade of the Hamas-ruled strip, which Israel says is needed to prevent Hamas importing weaponry. An Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, Hamas says the weekly protests are ultimately aimed at erasing the border and liberating Palestine. Critics say the blockade amounts to collective punishment of the enclave’s two million residents. Hamas seized control of Gaza from Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah in 2007, two years after Israel dismantled all settlements and withdrew all civilians and soldiers from the strip.
The National Forum for the March of Return, one of several Palestinian groups behind the weekly demonstrations, said that the demonstrations came to “affirm our right to return” — a reference to the Palestinian demand that Israel allow tens of thousands of refugees and their millions of descendants to return to their former homes inside Israel. Such a demand would mean the end of Israel as a majority Jewish state.
According to the United Nations, some 1.3 million of Gaza’s 1.9 million residents are refugees or their descendants.