Palestinian teen shot in Gaza border protests dies of wounds

Hamas-run health ministry says Mahmoud al-Gharabli, 16, had been in critical condition since sustaining a head injury on May 14; death brings day’s death toll to at least 63

Palestinian demonstrators burn tires near the Gaza-Israel border, east of Gaza City, on May 14, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)
Palestinian demonstrators burn tires near the Gaza-Israel border, east of Gaza City, on May 14, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

A Palestinian teen shot by Israeli forces in May during major clashes on the Gaza border died of his wounds on Wednesday, the Hamas-run health ministry said.

“Mahmoud al-Gharabli, 16, died after being injured in the head east of Gaza City on May 14,” ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

Gharabli’s death brings the number of Palestinians killed on that day — when thousands rioted at the heavily guarded border fence as the United States moved its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — to at least 63, according to the health ministry. At least 50 of them were Hamas members, the terror group has acknowledged.

Since the organized protests and clashes began along the Gaza border on March 30, more than 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire. Dozens of the fatalities were members of terror groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have said.

Israel said its troops were defending the border and accused Hamas of trying to carry out terror attacks under the cover of the protests.

The protests at Israel’s border peaked on the day al-Gharabli was injured, when some 40,000 Gazans protested and rioted along the fence and violent clashes took place between troops and Palestinians.

Palestinians chant slogans during clashes with Israeli troops near the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel east of Gaza City, on May 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

In addition to the border protests, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have launched countless kites, balloons and inflated latex condoms bearing flammable materials, and occasionally explosives, into Israeli territory, sparking near-daily fires that have burned thousands of acres of farmland, parks and forests.

The Israeli military says it has insisted its soldiers adhere to the rules of engagement to defend Israeli civilians and security infrastructure from attacks cloaked by the protests.

But Israeli leaders have been split on how to respond to those responsible for the airborne arson attacks, with some calling for the IDF to shoot the kite flyers and balloon launchers on sight, while others argue that it would be a step too far.

The IDF has carried out multiple warning strikes in recent weeks at groups of Gazans preparing to launch incendiary devices toward Israel. The army has said repeatedly that it will act to prevent the launch of the airborne incendiary devices and explosives.

Palestinians prepare a kite with flammable materials that they will fly into southern Israel from Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on June 22, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Last Wednesday, the Israeli military carried out a number of strikes in Gaza in response to the launches. Terror groups in Gaza launched over a dozen rockets toward Israel in retaliation for the strikes, setting off warning sirens and sending thousands of Israelis to bomb shelters.

In recent weeks, the military has adopted a policy of targeting Hamas positions in response to repeated incendiary kite and balloon attacks from Gaza in an effort to force the group, which rules the coastal enclave, to stop launching the arson devices and to force others in the Strip to abandon the tactic as well.

However, Hamas is attempting to maintain that the near-constant airborne arson attacks, which have burned thousands of acres of Israeli land, do not warrant retaliatory strikes by Israel and therefore accuses Jerusalem of violating the tacit ceasefire between the two sides.

“Bombings will be answered with bombings,” Hamas said after its rocket attacks last week.

Israeli leaders have warned that the military is prepared to take more intense offensive action against the phenomenon.

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