Palestinians throw stones at Israeli soldiers at a riot near Ramallah, December 2017.
(photo credit: ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)
A 15-year-old Palestinian teenager died Thursday from IDF gunfire during nighttime clashes along the Gaza border fence.
Identified as Saif al-Din Abu Zaid by the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, he was shot in the head by troops as he was participating in a riot on the northern Gaza border with Israel on Wednesday night. He died at a hospital early Thursday morning.
Thousands of Gazans have been protesting along the security fence on a weekly basis, taking part in the March of Return demonstrations which began on March 30, calling for an end of the 12-year-long Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Over the past year of riots, the timing and frequency of the clashes has changed, with Hamas increasing their frequency with large-scale riots occurring during the week as well as at night. The nighttime riots have included different tactics, focusing more on psychological warfare against civilians in nearby communities with loud explosives and the use of megaphones to project death threats in Hebrew.
During the violent riots on Wednesday night, an incoming rocket siren was activated in communities in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council area bordering the Gaza Strip, after rioters attempted to throw explosive devices at troops stationed along the border.
There were no injuries or damage.
Around an hour later, additional incoming rocket sirens were activated after a mortar was fired toward communities in Israel’s Eshkol Regional Council area.
In response, Israeli warplanes carried out intensive airstrikes in the southern Gaza Strip, which according to Palestinian media destroyed a Hamas naval commando base and damaged several nearby homes. There were no injuries reported.
“Fighter jets and aircraft struck several military targets in a Hamas compound in the southern Gaza Strip,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement Thursday, adding that the IDF holds Hamas responsible for all cross-border attacks.
With the one year anniversary of the March of Return approaching, tensions with Gaza have significantly risen.
According to a report in the London-based Arabic language newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, the two sides are holding indirect negotiations mediated by Egypt to reach a ceasefire. Israel is demanding that Hamas cease all violence along the border, as well as the rioting and explosive aerial devices launched toward southern Israel.
The devices have caused 2,000 separate fires, resulting in more than 35,000 dunams (approximately 8,500 acres) being burned. According to the IDF, this has included more than 13,000 dunams (approximately 3,200 acres) of nature reserves, and more than 11,000 dunams (approximately 2,700 acres) of forestry.
Several explosive devices attached to clusters of balloons have exploded in the air above communities in southern Israel, causing damage to homes and farmland.
Last week, the United Nations Human Rights Council released a report claiming that IDF soldiers intentionally fired at civilians and could have committed crimes against humanity during the response to the demonstrations.
Israel has rejected the report and accuses Hamas of encouraging Gazans to participate in the riots, which the terror group uses as cover for attacks against IDF forces.
The IDF military intelligence assessment for 2019 has warned that a continued deterioration of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure will likewise continue to put pressure on Hamas, which could lead to another violent clash with Israel, despite both sides not being interested in another war.
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