A Palestinian teenager died on Saturday after Israeli troops shot him during protests along the border of the Gaza Strip the day before, Reuters reported. With the death of 15-year-old Azzam Aweida, the death toll rose to four. Israeli soldiers also wounded 955 demonstrators, Al Jazeera reported.
At least 45 demonstrators have been killed and more than 6,000 wounded after thousands started gathering Gaza Strip every Friday since March 30 as part of a mass sit-in known as the Great March of Return movement. Palestinians have been demanding the right to return to their homes that Israel seized in 1948 during its creation. The protest is scheduled to end on May 15, which Palestinians call Nakba (catastrophe). It marks the day hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homes.
Seventeen demonstrators suffered gunshot wounds that ultimately led to amputation of legs, the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza told The Washington Post. In at least three of the cases, Israeli authorities allegedly refused to transfer wounded Gazans to the West Bank, where they could receive medical care that might have saved their limbs.
Israel claims that the protests along the border fence are violent and provide cover for militant attacks. “IDF troops act according to clear rules of engagement that are tailored to the scenarios they are contending with,” an unidentified spokesperson for the Israel Defence Forces, the country’s military, said on Saturday.
However, human rights groups have accused Israeli soldiers of firing at unarmed protestors or shooting those who did not pose an immediate threat. “The deployment of snipers, careful planning and significant number of injuries to the lower limbs does reflect an apparent policy to target [those] limbs,” said Omar Shakir, Israel-Palestine director at Human Rights Watch in New York. He told The Post that targeting the legs of protestors “does not make the policy any less illegal”.