Israeli forces shot 22-year-old Muhammad Abu Halima in the chest, killing him, during protests east of Gaza City on Friday.
Nearly 400 people were injured along Gaza’s eastern boundary on the 15th consecutive week of the Great March of Return demonstrations. Nearly 60 were wounded with live ammunition, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
On Wednesday the health ministry announced that Mahmoud Majid al-Gharableh, 16, had succumbed to his wounds after being shot in the head on 14 May, which saw the highest number of fatalities in a single day since the launch of the protests in late March.
Al-Gharableh is the 20th child among the nearly 150 Palestinians reported killed by Israeli forces in Gaza during that period, the vast majority of them during protests. More than 4,000 others have been wounded by live fire.
Israel has resorted to crude propaganda to deflect blame for the deaths of Palestinian boys and girls hit by bullets fired by its soldiers.
This week Israel claimed that Hamas uses candy to lure children – who pose no conceivable danger to heavily armed soldiers in fortified positions – to the boundary fence.
Palestinians should apparently view lethal sniper fire as a natural and inevitable phenomenon at the boundary fence, not unlike the weather.
Meanwhile Israeli military spokesperson Ronen Manelis told the French National Assembly that Hamas sent a 7-year-old girl wearing Mickey Mouse pajamas to infiltrate Israel from Gaza.
“There is only one reason behind this, simply to confuse us and have us kill her,” Manelis claimed, according to a video of his speech published on the military’s Twitter account.
Hamas would have scored a propaganda victory against Israel through the girl’s death, Manelis suggested.
“But we were able to identify her and to understand that it was a provocation,” he said, praising the army for giving water to the girl and sending her back to Gaza with a friendly goodbye.
It is twisted logic that suggests that Hamas is to blame for the killing of Palestinian children when it is Israeli soldiers aiming at them and pulling the trigger.
By saying that “we were able to identify her,” Manelis suggests that soldiers are able to see clearly the Gaza protesters they are killing and maiming, and that they are wilfully doing so.
Manelis’ is not the first such admission made by the military.
On 31 March, a day after the launch of the Great March of Return, when more than a dozen Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces, the military stated on Twitter:
“Yesterday we saw 30,000 people; we arrived prepared and with precise reinforcements. Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.”
The admission was promptly deleted as videos emerged showing the lethal shootings of unarmed demonstrators and international condemnation mounted.
In April, Zvika Fogel, a senior Israeli officer, explained how Israeli snipers take deliberate aim at children, only firing when given the order by a superior.
“To my great sorrow, sometimes when you shoot at a small body and you intended to hit his arm or shoulder, it goes even higher,” Fogel said, justifying the deaths of children.
Israel’s military and political leadership has sought from the beginning to portray the Great March of Return as a Hamas stunt exploiting civilian protests as a cover for “terror” activities which pose an existential threat to Israeli communities near the Gaza boundary.
Israel naturally wants to shift attention away from the demands of the protests: to end the cruel siege it has imposed on Gaza for more than a decade, and to allow Palestinian refugees in Gaza to exercise their right to return to the lands on the other side of the boundary, from which their families were expelled 70 years ago.
Human Rights Watch says that Israel’s use of deadly force against Gaza demonstrators “may amount to war crimes.”
Israel’s propagandists have admitted that Palestinians posed no immediate threat to soldiers when they were killed.
Admission of willful killing
On Monday the army spokesperson’s office stated on Twitter that soldiers killed a Palestinian who was allegedly attempting to set fire to an unmanned military post.
The spokesperson’s account claimed that “terrorists” had crossed the boundary fence carrying “cutters and combustible materials.” Soldiers “spotted the infiltration, monitored the incident and pursued the terrorists while firing towards them.”
The army’s account adds that soldiers reported hearing shots fired in their direction.
If the Palestinians they fired at were in fact armed, the military surely would have paraded photos of their weapons, if their past behavior is any indication.
“The troops operated swiftly to prevent the threat to Israeli sovereignty and the attempt to damage security infrastructure,” the army stated.
The “terrorist” killed by Israeli troops was identified by Palestinian media as Khaled Samir Abd al-Al, 18.
The killing of Palestinians who cross a boundary fence and damage military occupation infrastructure, or who possess cutters and combustible materials, is not justified.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated that Israeli forces, “in policing the Gaza fence,” may only “resort to lethal force in cases of extreme necessity, as a last resort in response to an imminent threat of death or risk of serious injury.”
One is hard pressed to imagine what kind of threat was posed by Yasir Amjad Musa Abu al-Naja, the youngest yet killed during the protests.
The 11-year-old boy’s life was ended by a single bullet to his head during last Friday’s protests.
Children in Gaza released dozens of balloons carrying posters of Yasir one week after his death: