Two Palestinians were shot dead Friday as thousands participated in violent protests at the Gaza-Israel border, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said in a statement.
Some time after protests ended gunmen fired at IDF soldiers near the border, causing no casualties. In response the military launched a strike on a nearby Hamas observation post.
The IDF said around 7,000 Palestinians participated in violent riots in several locations along the border. Protesters hurled rocks and burned tires, and attacked troops with pipe bombs, a Molotov cocktail and a grenade — all of which did not manage to clear the fence and fell in Gazan territory. In another incident the army said troops identified several suspects approach the fence, sabotage it and move back.
The military said soldiers responded to the violence with less-lethal means as well as live fire in certain instances.
The Gaza ministry said the deceased were a 43-year-old man and a 12-year-old boy. It named the adult as Ghazi Abu Mustafa, and said he was shot in the head near the border fence, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. The teen was identified as Majdi Al-Satra, shot in the head during confrontations east of Rafah.
Eyewitness Hassan Najjar told The Associated Press he witnessed the shooting of Abu Mustafa. He claimed soldiers shot at a group of Palestinians who rushed to the border and a bullet hit the man, who was sitting about 250 meters away.
The Gaza health ministry reported that at least 240 people were injured, while 90 suffered wounds from live fire.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassim said: “The occupation purposefully killed the child Majdi al-Satra today. The leaders of the occupation’s army must be prosecuted as war criminals for this crime. Our people’s response is to continue its resistance and struggle until the occupation is expelled from all of our Palestinian land.”
Earlier the Israeli military carried out an airstrike on a squad of Palestinians in northern Gaza as they flew incendiary balloons towards Israel, the army said. Palestinians said there were no casualties in the attack.
A senior Israeli official told Hadashot news: “Hamas is playing with fire and it will get a conflagration.”
Since March 30, southern Israel has experienced many fires as a result of incendiary devices attached to balloons or kites launched from Gaza across the border into Israeli territory.
Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials. The attacks have continued almost daily, although there has been a marked reduction in numbers since the weekend when the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza, said it agreed to a ceasefire.
Despite the drop, violence flared Wednesday and early Thursday after a Hamas sniper shot and injured an IDF officer. Israel responded with tank fire and airstrikes on Hamas targets, and rockets were fired from the Palestinian territory at communities in southern Israel.
The military has also bolstered troop presence in the West Bank after a Palestinian assailant sneaked into a West Bank settlement and stabbed three people Thursday, killing one.
An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said late Thursday it was sending two more brigades to the West Bank following the deadly terrorist attack in Adam. The move comes as Israel has also raised its military alert level in the Golan amid flare-ups there.
Agencies contributed to this report.