Three Palestinians killed as Israeli army fires on Gaza protests
Three Palestinians, including a 12-year-old boy, were killed in the Gaza Strip after the Israeli army opened fire on protesters near the fence between Israel and the blockaded Palestinian territory, the Gaza health ministry has said.
Fares Hafez al-Sersawi, 12, and 24-year-old Mahmud Akram Mohammed Abu Samane both died after being shot in the chest during demonstrations east of Gaza City, ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.
Hussein al-Rakab, 28, died after being shot in the head near Khan Yunis in the south of the Gaza Strip, Qudra said.
Another 376 people were wounded, including 126 who were shot, according to health ministry figures.
Seven Palestinians were in a critical condition, including a medical volunteer, the ministry said.
Palestinians had expressed fears about increased violence during this week's demonstrations after the Israeli army announced on Thursday that it would be bolstering its forces near the frontier.
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman also hinted that the Israeli army would respond forcefully to the protests this week, tweeting "the holidays are over" on Friday morning, referring to the end of a month-long series of Jewish holidays.
Lieberman was recently accused of being too lenient toward the protesters in Gaza by Israel's hardline education minister, Naftali Bennett.
According to Qidreh at the Gaza health ministry, 197 Palestinians have been killed and more than 21,600 injured since the protests began at the end of March.
Forty-four children have been slain since the protests began, according to the group Defense for Children International.
"The international community must work to bring about an end to all forms of collective punishment caused by the ongoing blockade on Gaza since 2007," said Defense for Children International-Palestine Accountability Program director Ayed Abu Eqtaish.
After a relatively quiet period in which the protests continued in a more limited capacity as Israel and Hamas discussed a now-stalled, long-term truce agreement, seven Palestinians were killed last Friday.
The protests are now entering their seventh month. Palestinians began participating in the Great March of Return on 30 March, one of the biggest mass demonstrations since the Second Intifada.