A Palestinian boy was reportedly killed along the Gazan border late Wednesday, with a Hamas official and an eyewitness accusing Israel, but the military denied the claim, saying the child was hit by celebratory gunfire during a wedding in the coastal enclave.
Ashraf al-Qudra, spokesman for the health ministry in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, said the boy died when Israeli troops fired across the border east of Khan Younis in eastern Gaza.
“Abdullah al-Naseef, 10, was killed by (Israeli) occupation fire close to his house in the Qarara municipality, near Khan Younis,” he said.
An eyewitness said the Israeli army opened fire from a military base near Kissufim along the border.
However, the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) denied the charge completely, saying al-Naseef had been hit by bullets fired in celebration at a nearby wedding, not by Israeli soldiers.
COGAT also said al-Naseef, who it referred to as al-Nadif, was 13 years old and not 10, as the Gazan health ministry had claimed.
— COGAT (@cogat_israel) October 13, 2016
Initially, the Israeli army said only that it had no information about any firing across the border.
“We are not aware of any incident,” a spokesperson said Wednesday night.
Later, Israel cast the blame on celebratory gunshots from a wedding in the area.
On Tuesday night Palestinian officials said Israeli forces shot dead a 20-year-old Palestinian man in East Jerusalem. Israeli officials said they had shot at a man who was among a group who threw Molotov cocktails at them “while greatly endangering the soldiers’ lives.”
Tensions along the Gaza border have risen recently. Last week saw several projectiles launched into Israel from the Hamas-run enclave. On Wednesday, a rocket hit the southern Israeli town of Sderot and exploded in the middle of a street, causing some damage to the road, cars and nearby homes. Three people were hospitalized after suffering anxiety attacks.
In response, the IDF struck Hamas targets, first with tank fire and then with a series of airstrikes in Gaza, targeting “key Hamas strategic infrastructure,” according to a military official.
On Thursday, an IDF tank hit a Hamas outpost in the southern Gaza Strip in response to a mortar shell fired at southern Israel earlier in the day. Reports within the Gaza Strip also indicated that Israeli forces struck a site in central Gaza, east of the Bureij refugee camp, though that was not immediately confirmed by the IDF.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Thursday that while Israel does not want to spark a war with Hamas, it will answer every attack from the Gaza Strip with a “forceful response.”
Though neither rocket attack was believed to have been carried out by Hamas, Israel has said that Hamas ultimately “bears responsibility for every terror incident emanating from” the Gaza Strip.
After the Israeli strikes Hamas reportedly sent a message to Israel calling for calm and saying the terrorist group was not interested in a further escalation of tensions.