The Israeli army said Friday it was looking into the reported death of a 15-year-old Palestinian during clashes in the Gaza Strip. Videos circulated on social media appeared to show the teen, identified as Mohammed Ibrahim Ayoub, having been shot in the head.
The military told Channel 10 news it was investigating the video and the incident as a whole. Four Palestinians were reported killed during Friday’s violence.
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.”
He also called for calm, saying that “as we mourn the tragic loss of a young life, we must all resolve to avoid causing more suffering by responses to his death.”
Earlier, the UN envoy to the region blasted Israel’s response to the Gaza protests as “outrageous” and called on the IDF to stop shooting children.
“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,” UN Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov wrote.
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.
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 four Palestinians, including the 15-year-old, 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 a swastika.
In all the Gaza ministry said that some 445 people were injured, including 96 from live fire.
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.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, said his counterpart in Geneva would start the process early next week that hopefully will culminate in an emergency meeting and approval by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council of a resolution authorizing a commission “to investigate these crimes.”
He told reporters at UN headquarters in New York on Friday that the Palestinians will not accept an investigation that Israel has announced because “it cannot be credible.” Mansour said an investigation must be independent and transparent, as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and others have called for.
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.
Israel accuses Hamas of using civilian shields, including women and children, as cover for carrying out attacks along the border.
Israel and Egypt maintain a security blockade of the Hamas-ruled strip, which Israel says is needed to prevent Hamas importing weaponry. An Islamist terror group which seeks to destroy Israel, Hamas says the weekly protests are ultimately aimed at erasing the border and liberating Palestine.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman toured the Gaza area Friday, meeting with the troops.
“Thanks to the IDF’s activity, week by week there is a drop in the number of participants in the riots,” he said, praising the soldiers.
The IDF estimated that 3,000 people were taking part, significantly smaller than the 10,000 at last Friday’s demonstration. In the two weeks before, there were an estimated 20,000 and 30,000 protesters, respectively.
Earlier, Israeli military aircraft dropped leaflets near the Gaza border warning Palestinians to keep away from the fence separating the coastal enclave from Israel, the IDF said.
That followed reports Wednesday that despite Egyptian pressure on Hamas and other Palestinian groups to halt the mass protests, organizers said they would move protest camps 50 meters closer to the border.
The National Forum for the March of Return, one of several Palestinian groups behind the weekly demonstrations, said that the decision 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.
The protests in Gaza are expected to continue until mid-May, around the time the US is set to inaugurate its new embassy in Jerusalem.
Mid-May will also mark the anniversary of what Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe, which saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flee their homes during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.
According to the United Nations, some 1.3 million of Gaza’s 1.9 million residents are refugees or their descendants.
At previous peace talks, the Palestinians have always demanded, along with sovereignty in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Old City, a “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees who left or were forced out of Israel when it was established. The Palestinians demand this right not only for those of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are still alive — a figure estimated in the low tens of thousands — but also for their descendants, who number in the millions.
No Israeli government would ever be likely to accept this demand, since it would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Israel’s position is that Palestinian refugees and their descendants would become citizens of a Palestinian state at the culmination of the peace process, just as Jews who fled or were forced out of Middle Eastern countries by hostile governments became citizens of Israel.