TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Israeli troops shot dead four Palestinians on the Gaza border on Friday, bringing to 35 the death toll in recent weeks among Palestinian protesters demanding the right to return to their former homeland.
The deaths included a 15-year-old boy shot dead in northern Gaza, Palestinian health officials said, adding that 156 people were wounded by Israeli gunfire, according to Reuters.
UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov wrote on Twitter: “It is outrageous to shoot at children! How does the killing of a child in Gaza today help peace? It doesn’t! It fuels anger and breeds more killing. Children must be protected from violence, not exposed to it.”
The planned six-week protest campaign reached its half-way point on Friday. As the numbers peaked during the afternoon, Israeli soldiers called out warnings in Arabic over loudspeakers to anyone who approached the border fence.
Black plumes of smoke from piles of burning tires billowed over the area, and stretcher-bearers rushed to carry the wounded to first aid posts.
The protest began on March 30, and has seen tent encampments spring up near the Israeli-imposed restricted zone along the 40km (25-mile) border fence. The protesters have revived demands for Palestinian refugees to regain their ancestral homes in the occupied territories.
Israel’s use of live fire has drawn international criticism but the Israeli regime claims it is protecting its borders and takes such action when protesters come too close to the border fence.
The Israeli military said that around 3,000 Palestinians were involved in the latest protest.
The protest campaign, dubbed The Great March of Return, is leading up to May 15, when Palestinians mark Nakba Day, or the Day of Catastrophe, commemorating their displacement around the time of Israel’s founding in 1948.