Palestinians say two teenagers shot and killed in Gaza border riots
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Palestinians say two teenagers shot and killed in Gaza border riots

8,000 gather for weekly border protests, throwing rocks, fire bombs and explosives at soldiers, who respond with tear gas and live fire

A Palestinian man carries the national flag during a demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 8, 2019. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
A Palestinian man carries the national flag during a demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 8, 2019. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Two Palestinian teens, including a 14-year-old boy, were shot and killed during mass protests along the Gaza border, where 17 others were wounded by live fire, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the Strip.

Some 8,000 Palestinians gathered along the border for the weekly demonstrations and riots, throwing rocks, fire bombs and explosives at soldiers, who responded with tear gas and occasional live fire.

The health ministry said that the 14-year-old, identified as Hassan Shalabi, was shot in the chest in a protest near Khan Younis in southern Gaza. Media reports said Shalabi was a relative of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Shortly after, the ministry announced the death of 18-year-old Hamza Ishtawi, saying he was shot in the neck during similar clashes east of Gaza City.

The Israeli army declined to comment on the deaths, but said 8,200 “rioters and demonstrators” had been protesting along the border.

Palestinian demonstrators evacuate a wounded person during a demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 8, 2019. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

“They are hurling rocks at troops and towards the security fence, as well as a number of explosive devices that did not cross the fence,” a spokesman said.

Israeli troops “responded with riot dispersal means and fired according to standard operating procedures,” he added.

For the past several months, Egypt, UN special coordinator to the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov and Qatar have worked to try to restore calm in Gaza and prevent flare-ups between Israel and terror groups in the Strip.

In recent weeks, tensions between Israel and terror groups in Gaza rose after a Palestinian sniper opened fire on a group of Israeli soldiers. The bullet hit the helmet of an officer, lightly injuring him.

On Wednesday, Palestinians fired a rocket into Israel. The projectile reportedly fell in the area of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. There were no reports of damage or injuries in the attack.

In response, an Israeli tank opened fire at a Hamas position in southern Gaza.

Also this week, Israel announced that it had begun the final phase of construction of a 20-foot high galvanized steel fence that will completely surround the Strip.

The barrier will extend 65 kilometers (40 miles) miles around the enclave and sit atop the subterranean concrete wall Israel is constructing around Gaza to block terrorist groups’ attack tunnels.

Israel constructs an above-ground barrier around Gaza Strip, meant to prevent infiltration by terrorists, in February 2019. (Defense Ministry)

Friday’s protests were held at various locations along the border under the banner of Hamas’s ongoing “March of Return” demonstrations.

Since March, Palestinians have been holding weekly “March of Return” protests on the border, which Israel has accused Hamas rulers of using to carry out attacks on troops and attempt to breach the security fence.

Israel has demanded an end to the violent demonstrations along the border in any ceasefire agreement.

The protest organizers have said the demonstrations aim to achieve the “return” of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands that 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 that 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.

Hamas, which violently seized control of Gaza in 2007 from the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, is a terror group that seeks to destroy Israel.

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