A Palestinian child succumbed to wounds he sustained last Friday during a protest on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.
Four-year-old Ahmad Abu Abed was hit by bullet shrapnel in the face, chest and stomach at a protest in the border area in southern Gaza, a senior official in the ministry, who asked to remain unnamed, told the Times of Israel.
He added that the bullet was fired by Israeli security forces.
The IDF said it was looking into what happened to Abu Abed, while accusing Hamas of using Palestinians in Gaza, including children, as “human shields.”
“The Hamas terrorist organization cynically uses Gaza residents, especially women and children, as human shields and place them at the forefront of the violent riots, terrorist attacks and the terror of arson, demonstrating their contempt for human life,” the IDF said in an emailed statement.
The official in the Hamas-run Health Ministry said he was not certain whether the bullet directly impacted Abu Abed or ricocheted off another object and then hit him.
He also said he was not sure how far Abu Abed was from the border when he was impacted by the bullet shrapnel.
Videos shared on Twitter showed what appeared to be Abu Abed with a bloody face being carried into an ambulance by a paramedic.
Since March 30, weekly Friday protests, which have included many violent acts, have taken place in the border region.
Their organizers have said the protests aim to achieve the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands which are now part of Israel, and pressure the Jewish state to lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave.
Israeli officials hold the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants would destroy Israel’s Jewish character. They also maintain that the restrictions on movement are in place to prevent Hamas and other terrorist groups from smuggling weapons into the Strip.
Israeli security officials have repeatedly called on Palestinians in Gaza to stay away from the border fence between Israel and the coastal enclave.
“Those who approach the fence today are putting themselves in danger,” then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman wrote on Twitter on March 30.
In the past several weeks, the protests have largely subsided, with members of the Hamas-run security forces taking action to prevent Palestinians from approaching the border fence and carrying out violent acts against it and Israeli soldiers.
Nonetheless, a small number of Palestinians have still managed to undertake violent acts during the protests such as lobbing rocks at soldiers.
In comparison to the initial months of the protests, very few Palestinians have been wounded by Israeli fire during the past number of weeks.
Hamas and other Palestinian factions made moves to stop violent behavior at the protests shortly after Israel allowed for Qatari-bought fuel to flow into the Strip’s sole power plant.
In the past month, Israel has also allowed Qatar to bring millions of dollars into the coastal enclave to pay Hamas-appointed government employees.