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Three Palestinians killed by Israeli fire during Gaza protests

Teenager from Rafah died from his wounds on Saturday morning after being shot by Israeli army on Friday, Gaza's health ministry said
The sister of Palestinian Majdi al-Satari, 14, mourns the death of her brother (Reuters)

Three Palestinian protesters, including two teenagers, have died after being shot by the Israeli army during Friday's protests along the Israel-Gaza border, Gaza's health ministry has said.

Mohmen al-Hams, 17, from Rafah, succumbed to his wounds on Saturday morning, the ministry said. Majdi al-Satri, 14, and Ghazi Abu Mustafa, 43 died on Friday.

According to the ministry, a total of 264 Palestinian demonstrators were injured during the protests, 90 of whom were wounded by live fire. Of those wounded, 11 are in serious condition, it said.

The ministry statement said Hams was shot in the chest during protests near the southern Gaza town of Rafah.

It also said Mustafa was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers east of the southern city of Khan Yunis.

Mustafa was brought to a hospital tent staffed by his wife, a medic, who collapsed when she discovered him among the casualties, her colleagues said.

The Israeli military did not comment directly on the deaths but claimed about 7,000 Palestinians threw rocks and rolled burning tyres at soldiers, and at the fence itself, at several locations along the border.

"Troops are responding with riot dispersal means and firing in accordance with the rules of engagement," an English-language statement said on Friday evening, without elaborating.

Palestinians have been protesting every Friday since 30 March as part of the Great March of Return.

The protest campaign calls for an end to the 11-year Israeli 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.

Since the demonstrations began on 30 March, the Israeli army has killed at least 157 Palestinian protesters and wounded more than 16,000, according to Gaza's health ministry.

Palestinians in Gaza offering funeral prayers to remember slain children during weeks of protest (MEE/Mohammed Asad)
Palestinians in Gaza used this week's Friday protest to commemorate the children killed by Israel since the protests began. Small coffins were carried by children and funeral prayers were offered in remembrance. 

Images of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump with the word "killer" was also held up during the protests. 

Fake coffins were carried to commemorate children killed during the weeks of Gaza protests (MEE/Mohammed Asad)
Abdullah al-Qaoud, 15, addressed today's demonstration in Gaza before Israel began firing upon protesters.

"Today I carry the small coffin of Iman Hijo, the martyr of the Intifada. Perhaps my own coffin will be carried in future marches of return, but our struggle will continue and our demands will not change," said Qaoud.

"Each one of them has a story that the West and the Arab world know through their media coverage.

"We carry these coffins today as a message to the world. The policy of deliberately killing children and the violation of their rights has to stop."

Palestinians marched to commemorate the children lost during weeks of protest (MEE/Mohammed Asad)

'Operational mishaps'

An internal Israeli army probe into the killings Palestinians during Gaza protests since 30 March is set to say that none of the incidents involved violated standard military procedure or open-fire orders, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said on Thursday.

The investigating team, headed by Brigadier General Moti Baruch, reportedly found that "operational mishaps" were behind the killing of Palestinian demonstrators, not intentional targeting.

A number of reasons for the "operational mishaps" were given by the investigators, such as demonstrators intruding in the line of fire as well as bullets ricocheting, Haaretz said.

The probe spans the period from the start of the Great March of Return up until 14 July.

Commenting on the report, B'tselem, an Israel-based organisation documenting human rights violations in the occupied territories, said: "Israeli military probe findings, that snipers did not intentionally shoot at Palestinians who were 'uninvolved' is disingenuous and hollow chatter."

"The manifestly illegal orders soldiers received allowed snipers to shoot at unarmed protesters who posed no risk," the statement added.

"Predictably, exactly like after 'Operation Protective Edge', the 'general staff investigation mechanism' was part and parcel of the whitewash."

Operation Protective Edge was a military operation launched by Israel on 8 July 2014 in Gaza.

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