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Israeli forces kill Palestinian teenager at Gaza protest

Othman Heles is the 138th Palestinian to have been killed since the beginning of the Great March of Return
Israeli forces shoot tear gas at Palestinian demonstrators in eastern Gaza on 13 July 2018 (MEE/Mohammad Asad)

Israeli forces killed a teenage boy in Gaza on Friday, as Palestinian demonstrators marked more than 100 days of protests since the Great March of Return began.

The Gaza health ministry identified the slain boy as 15-year-old Othman Rami Heles, adding that he had been shot by Israeli snipers east of Gaza City.

The ministry said 68 other demonstrators had been injured as of 7pm local time.

An estimated 30,000 protesters were gathered on Friday evening in five separate locations along the fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel.

Heles is the 138th Palestinian to have been killed by Israeli forces since the start of the protest campaign in late March.

The Great March of Return began on 30 March, calling for an end to the 11-year Israeli-led blockade on Gaza and for Palestinian refugees’ right of return to the lands that their families fled during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

Friday’s demonstration came days after Israel shut down Kerem Shalom, the Gaza Strip’s only commercial crossing, and reduced the designated fishing zone to six nautical miles on Monday.

Israeli authorities tightened the siege in the Palestinian enclave in an attempt to pressure Hamas, which it holds responsible for the Great March of Return, an allegation that the campaign's organisers have rejected.

Heat, tear gas and snipers have not deterred protesters (MEE/Mohammed Asad)
Israeli officials have been outraged by some demonstrators' use of kites and balloons set on fire, which they fly over the separation fence into Israel, claiming that the kites have sparked fires damaging nearly 3,000 hectares of farmlands and forests.

But Palestinians view the inexpensive flying devices to be a tool of resistance against the well-armed Israeli forces stationed behind the fence that have killed scores of peaceful protesters and wounded thousands. No Israeli casualties have been recorded.

Despite the difficulties of showing up week after week facing Israeli snipers and tear gas in the summer heat, with burning tyres a constant backdrop, demonstrators told Middle East Eye of their determination to continue.

"We will not back down," said Anas Daoud, a physically disabled 18-year-old protester. "Yes, I am tired, it is exhausting for my health on the rough road, and it is difficult to move in this area with the shooting and the tear gas, but it is a necessary sacrifice."

Mohammed Hijla came out to protest with his wife and three children.

"We came to the March of Return with our families to send a message to the world from the ground," he told MEE. "Our children will remember our rights, and they are the ones that ask us to come to the March of Return."

-Additional reporting from Gaza by Mohammed Asad.

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