Israel kills child as Gaza marks 100 days of protests

Palestinians protest against Israel’s use of snipers to target children, during a protest east of Gaza City, 13 July.

Dawoud Abo Alkas APA images

Israeli snipers killed a child on Friday and fatally wounded a second person as Palestinians marked more than 100 days of Great March of Return protests in Gaza.

Uthman Rami Hillis, 14, was killed by live fire, according to the human rights group Al Mezan.

Hillis, from the neighborhood of Shujaiya, was shot by Israeli forces stationed across the boundary east of Gaza City, the group stated.

On Saturday, the health ministry in Gaza announced that 20-year-old Muhammad Nasir Shurab had died of injuries he suffered the day before when he was shot by snipers east of Khan Younis.

More than more 100 people across Gaza were injured, 65 with live ammunition.

Defense for Children International Palestine shared a video said to show the moment Hillis was shot. It shows the boy climbing on the separation fence along the Gaza-Israel boundary, but presenting no direct or mortal threat to anyone at the moment he was killed.

Palestinian media circulated this photo of Hillis following news of his death.
Media also shared images of Hillis being carried on a stretcher after he was shot:
Video showed distressing scenes as relatives mourned over Hillis’ body at the morgue of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City.

Before Hillis’ death on Friday, the UN humanitarian monitoring agency OCHA reported that 21 children were among the nearly 150 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since 30 March, the vast majority of them during protests. More than 4,000 others have been wounded by live fire.

During the same period, four Israelis have been injured.

Standing with Khan al-Ahmar

For the 16th Friday in a row thousands of Palestinians headed towards Gaza’s eastern boundary.

Since 30 March, Palestinians have been mounting protests against Israel’s 11-year siege of Gaza and to call for the right of refugees to return to lands from which they were expelled and are excluded by Israel because they are not Jews.

Israel has responded by deploying snipers with orders to shoot unarmed civilians including children – killings and maimings the International Criminal Court prosecutor has warned could lead to Israeli leaders being tried for war crimes.

The theme of this Friday’s protest was solidarity with Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village near Jerusalem which faces imminent demolition by Israel – a war crime – to make way for more Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Many Palestinians in Gaza addressed messages to the people of Khan al-Ahmar through local media.

“We are here today in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Khan al-Ahmar,” one man said. “All of Gaza is with you.”

This image shows a Palestinian waving the Irish flag in honor of the Irish senate’s passage earlier this week of a bill to ban the import of goods from Israeli settlements.

Israel tightens siege

As Palestinians in Gaza sustain their revolt against the siege despite the devastating cost, Israel is responding by tightening the blockade even further.

On Monday, Israel announced the closing of Gaza’s only commercial goods crossing.

Israel is also reducing the distance Gaza fishers are allowed out to sea from nine to six nautical miles.

The steps are collective punishment against Gaza’s two million people for incendiary kites and balloons that Palestinians have launched, setting fire to fields on the Israeli side of the boundary.

Israel’s technologically advanced military has proven unable to counter the kites and balloons.

So once again, occupation authorities are inflicting more of the suffering that has spurred revolt against a situation in which the population in Gaza – half of them children – can only choose between dying by Israel’s bullets and bombs, or being reduced quietly to desperation and death by the siege.

Israel says it will allow in “humanitarian” supplies such as food and medicine, but UN officials are warning that the closure of the commercial crossing will make the situation in Gaza much worse.

The closure “can be expected to have profound and far reaching consequences for already desperate civilians,” Chris Gunness, spokesperson for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, stated on Thursday.

Gunness pointed out that among the imports banned by Israel were building materials for UN education, health, water, sanitation and hygiene projects.

Gaza’s water and sanitation systems are already near collapse following years of Israeli blockade and military attacks.

Inflicting suffering

Gisha, an Israeli human rights group that monitors the blockade of Gaza, said that Israel is banning all building materials, not just those destined for UN projects – which will quickly bring all construction in Gaza to a halt.

Already struggling businesses will also suffer huge losses.

Farmer Suleiman Zurub was waiting to ship 2,000 crates of sweet potatoes out through the crossing. That crop will now likely spoil. “Farmers are the big losers from this decision,” Zurub said, according to Gisha.

Hasan Shehadeh, who owns a clothing company, also faces huge losses as he is unable to ship goods to customers in Israel, the occupied West Bank and China.

“If things stay this way, I’ll suffer huge financial losses, because in my contracts I’ve signed a commitment to pay for every item left in my factory,” Shehadeh said, according to Gisha.

Shehadeh is also worried about the 200 people he employs. “Israel’s decision will affect them too, of course,” he said.

Early warnings

UNRWA’s Gunness predicted that the latest closure would lead to an increase in demand for UNRWA services.

This would come at a time when the agency, which provides emergency rations, health and education to hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza, faces an unprecedented financial crisis following the freezing of US contributions earlier this year.

Nearly 80 percent of Gaza’s population is already forced to rely on humanitarian assistance and the unemployment rate is close to 50 percent.

In June, UNRWA warned that it may have to make deep cuts to its already stretched services.

Even before the latest Israeli restrictions, UN officials pointed to signs of a sharply deteriorating situation.

From January 2017 to June this year, the percentage of essential drugs at a zero stock level in Gaza has risen steadily from one-third to one-half, according to OCHA – meaning there is less than a one-month supply for those medicines.

In June, the average number of hours of electricity per day was 4.5 hours, close to an all-time low since January 2017.

Meanwhile, over the past year, the number of people who have had to borrow money or food from family or friends rose from about one in three to nearly half.

International complicity

The European Union, which rarely criticizes Israel and has failed to condemn its massacres of civilians in Gaza, said on Friday that it “expects Israel to reverse” the decision to close the commercial crossing.

The statement from Brussels made no reference to Israel’s obligations as an occupying power to abide by international law, including the prohibition on collective punishment.

The EU even tacitly justified Israel’s action by including a demand that “Hamas and other actors in Gaza must cease and refrain from violent actions and provocations against Israel, including the launching of incendiary kites and balloons.”

By contrast, Gisha has called Israel’s resort to “collectively punishing nearly two million people in Gaza” by closing the goods crossing “both illegal and morally depraved.”

The Palestinian human rights group Al Mezan deplored “the international community’s continued tolerance of the collective punishment of the population of Gaza in violation of its legal obligations under international humanitarian law.”

Al Mezan warned that Gaza is witnessing “a social and economic collapse” and is heading towards an “explosion.”

Air attacks

Overnight Friday to Saturday, and again on Saturday, Israel carried out air strikes across Gaza.

Israel began the attacks Friday night “in response to an Israeli army officer sustaining wounds after a locally-made bomb was thrown at him at the borders of the Gaza Strip,” Ma’an News Agency reported, citing Israeli media.

The newspaper Haaretz reported that an Israeli officer “was moderately wounded by a hand grenade that was launched at him from the northern Gaza Strip” on Friday.

Israel claimed it attacked tunnels and sites used for the preparation of incendiary kites and balloons.

Palestinian resistance factions returned fire towards Israel by launching dozens of rockets.

On Saturday, Israel resumed bombing Gaza and claimed to have carried out the biggest daytime attacks on the territory since its 2014 assault.

According to Haaretz, the Israeli “army said the attacks on Saturday were “in response not only to the launches” of retaliatory rockets from Gaza, “but also to Hamas’ activities along the border and the incendiary balloons and kites.”

On Saturday, Haaretz reported that one rocket “exploded near an Israeli border community,” but that there had been no injuries.

The health ministry in Gaza said that by Saturday evening one person had suffered moderate injuries due to the ongoing Israeli air attacks.

On social media, Palestinians in Gaza reported loud explosions from bombing that appeared calculated to terrorize the population.

This article has been updated since initial publication.