Israeli soldiers kill Gaza teenager during border protest

Published: Updated:

Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian teenager taking part in protests along the Gaza border on Friday, Palestinian health officials said, the first fatality since Gazans marked the one-year anniversary of the weekly demonstrations in March.

The Israeli military said about 7,400 Palestinians massed along the frontier, some throwing rocks, and that there were several attempts to approach the fence into Israel.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said a 15-year-old boy died after being shot by Israeli gunfire. An Israeli army spokesman said the troops were responding with riot dispersal means.

Tensions rose after a rocket fired from Gaza wounded seven Israelis north of Tel Aviv on March 25. Israel mounted a wave of air strikes following that attack on targets it said belonged to Hamas, the Islamist group which rules the coastal enclave.

The cross-border violence immediately played into Israel's election campaign, which concluded earlier this week with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heading toward a record fifth term in office.

But Egyptian mediators intervened to avoid further escalation by persuading Israel to lift restrictions on the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza and expand the breadth of Mediterranean waters where Gazans can fish.

The protesters are demanding an end to a blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt, and want Palestinians to have the right to return to land from which their families fled or were forced to flee during Israel's founding in 1948.

Israel rejects any such return, saying it would eliminate its Jewish majority.

More than 200 Gazans have been killed by Israeli troops since the ‘Great March of Return’ started on March 30 last year, according to Gaza health officials. An Israeli soldier was also killed by a Palestinian sniper.

Last month's anniversary rally was smaller than expected, despite concerns that the event, during which four Palestinians were killed, would see a major escalation.