Both the EU and the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov singled out Israel on Saturday, blaming the country for the death of a 15-year-old Palestinian in the fourth Friday of protests on the Gaza border.
The IDF said it was investigating the shooting death of 15-year-old Muhammad Ibrahim Ayyoub, one of four Palestinian fatalities from the Friday demonstrations, which saw hundreds of protesters injured. A video circulated on social media showed Ayyoub being shot in the head near the border fence.
Mladenov condemned Ayyoub’s death, calling for an investigation into the incident.
“It is OUTRAGEOUS to shoot at children!” he posted on Twitter. “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, not killed! This tragic incident must be investigated.”
A statement released by the European Union agreed with Mladenov, saying a “full investigation is needed to understand what happened and why.”
“As we once again mourn the loss of lives, the EU calls on the Israel Defense Forces to refrain from using lethal force against unarmed protesters,” the statement said. “The priority now must be to avoid any further escalation of violence and loss of life.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said that Hamas leadership was responsible for Ayyoub’s death, warning Gazans on Twitter not to approach the border fence.
“The only culprits in the death of the 15-year-old boy in Gaza are Hamas leaders. Those cowardly leaders hide behind women and children and send them forward as human shields so that they can continue to dig tunnels and carry out acts of terrorism against the State of Israel. I repeat to the residents of Gaza: To prolong your life, do not go near the fence,” he wrote.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan blasted the EU, saying that it should have learned from past incidents with Islamic State not to rely on information from terrorist organizations. He said the EU’s response would only encourage Hamas to continue using civilians as human shields.
A statement released by the IDF Saturday night said that Ayyoub’s death would be investigated, like all fatalities at the hands of the IDF.
“The IDF is constantly working to draw operational lessons and reduce the number of casualties in the security barrier. Unfortunately, Hamas deliberately places civilians in harm’s way. Every week it places young children, youth and women, on the front lines of violent disturbances, who are sent to the fence and used as ‘human shields’ for Hamas’s goals,” read the statement.
According to Reuters, Ayyoub ignored his mother’s objection and slipped away to join the protest along the Gaza-Israel border just hours after Israel’s military dropped leaflets in his Gaza village warning residents to stay away.
“He asked his aunt to tell me he would be back in an hour,” said his mother, Raeda.
Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon reacted to the latest violent riots by Palestinians along the Gaza border fence, saying: “Hamas is continuing to instigate violence against Israel as rioters today used firebombs and other means in attempts to damage the fence and infiltrate our sovereign territory. I call on all UN officials to condemn Hamas for encouraging violence, promoting instability and for the despicable act of exploiting women and children by placing them in harm’s way.”
Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi tweeted his criticism of the killing on Friday, posting a graphic photo of the dead youth and the question: “The criminal sniper (but the most moral in the world) who murdered the 15-year-old boy Muhammad Ibrahim Ayyoub deserves a medal?”
The Gaza Health Ministry said that 445 Palestinians were wounded Friday, including 96 by live gunfire. Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, quoted Palestinian health authorities as saying that many were treated after being hit by live ammunition or rubber bullets or after being overcome by tear gas.
THE OTHER fatalities on Friday were identified as Sa’ad Abu Taha, Ahmad Othamna and Nabil Abu Aqal. These three deaths brought the number of fatalities to 39, while another 1,600 people have been injured over the four weeks of border demonstrations called “Great March of Return” by Palestinians.
The IDF said on Saturday evening that some 10,000 Palestinians took part in the demonstrations this past Friday, burning tires, throwing Molotov cocktails and flying kites with burning rags dangling from their tails in a new tactic aimed at setting Israeli fields on fire.
Thousands of Gazans have also set up several “tent-cities” as close as they can to the border-fence, planning to remain there until “Nakba Day
” on May 15 as a form of peaceful resistance.
White House envoy Jason Greenblatt took to Twitter on Friday, posting in Arabic and English that while Palestinians in Gaza have a “right to protest their dire humanitarian circumstances,” organizers of the protests must “not stoke the potential for more violence with firebombs and flaming kites, and must keep a safe distance from the border.
“The cost of these demonstrations is too high in loss of life and injuries,” he added.
While Friday demonstrations remain violent, security officials have noticed a marked decline since the first week of rioting that saw tens of thousands of Gazans take part.
“Thanks to the IDF’s activity, week by week there is a drop in the number of participants in the riots,” Liberman said as he visited Kibbutz Sa’ad on the Gaza border during the protests on Friday.
“What is good to see is that the public is less and less responsive to Hamas’s call and you see simply hired activists,” Liberman continued, adding that “On the other hand, there are many more terrorism acts and a lot of terrorist activity.”
Calling the protests a “waste of time” Liberman said he “expects” the people of Gaza to “take fate into their own hands.”
Gil Hoffman, Chaya Eisenberg and Reuters contributed to this report.