Two Palestinian boys were killed by shelling amid a series of attacks on Gaza by Israeli occupation forces since Saturday.
Israeli forces hit several sites allegedly used by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza over the weekend and early Monday after four soldiers were wounded by an explosive device Israel says was planted along the Gaza-Israel boundary midday Saturday.
Armed groups in Gaza responded by firing rockets towards Israel, causing no injuries.
Salem Muhammad Sabah, 17, and Abdallah Ayman Armelat, 15, were fired on by Israeli soldiers as they approached Gaza’s southeastern boundary with Israel on Saturday night.
Israeli soldiers operate under an apparent shoot-to-kill policy in Gaza’s boundary areas. The exact range of the zone is undeclared but is generally understood to be within 300 meters of the Gaza-Israel boundary.
Israeli forces prevented medical teams from recovering the teens’ bodies until the following morning, according to Al Mezan, a human rights group based in Gaza.
Al Mezan stated that the children “posed no imminent threat of death or serious injury” to soldiers.
Two additional children sustained minor injuries during the same incident.
The deaths of the two boys came days after rights groups revealed that the Israeli military launched missiles at children playing on a Gaza beach without first identifying the targets during its 51-day offensive in summer 2014.
Four boys aged between 10 and 11 were killed during the 16 July 2014 strike, which was witnessed by international journalists at a nearby hotel.
Israel closed its investigation into the killings one year later without taking any action.
The rights groups Al Mezan and Adalah have pressed for the release of materials related to the investigation and are appealing the closure of the Israeli military’s internal probe of the incident.
A soldier involved in the strike told military investigators that soldiers were operating “on the assumption that there [were] only Hamas members there.”
The military made no efforts “to ascertain whether the targets on the ground were civilians, let alone children, prior to intentionally directing the attacks against them,” according to Al Mezan and Adalah, a group based near Haifa.
“The Israeli military was obligated to do everything feasible to verify that the individuals to be attacked were not civilians,” Muna Haddad, an attorney with Adalah, stated in a press release.
“Entry into a military area is not sufficient in order to [justify] attack and an attack of this nature is therefore a gross violation of the principle of distinction and of Israel’s responsibilities under international humanitarian law.”
Hundreds of protesters shot by live bullets
Hundreds of Palestinian protesters have been injured by live ammunition fired by the Israeli military after US President Donald Trump declared that the US would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in early December.
Nine Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in such protests over Jerusalem.
“This reality is a direct result of the military’s open-fire policy near the perimeter fence, which includes gunfire – also by snipers – at stone-throwers who pose no danger whatsoever,” the Israeli rights group B’Tselem stated last week.
One of those killed was Ibrahim Abu Thurayya, a 29-year-old double amputee who had already been injured three times by occupation forces.
He was shot in the leg during confrontations with soldiers east of Gaza City in 2001, shot in the stomach in the same location in 2004 and lost both of his legs as a result of a missile strike in 2008, according to B’Tselem.
Abu Thurayya was apparently known by name to the Israeli soldiers along the Gaza boundary fence.
Two days before Abu Thurayya was shot in the head, according to witness testimony given to B’Tselem, an Arabic-speaking soldier using a bullhorn said, “Go away, Ibrahim.”
The same witness told B’Tselem that Abu Thurayya would lift up his shirt “to show the soldiers that he wasn’t armed and that he posed no threat to anyone.”
Children shot by live fire
Ten Palestinian teenagers under the age of 18 have been shot and injured by soldiers using live fire during protests along the Gaza-Israel boundary so far this year.
Khalil Abu Habal, 17, was running away from the boundary in northern Gaza when he was shot in the right thigh, causing a bone fracture, on 9 February.
In a separate incident that same day, Akram al-Sharafi, 16, was throwing stones when he was shot by soldiers stationed in a watchtower along Gaza’s northern boundary.
He too was hit in his right thigh. According to Defense for Children International Palestine, the bullet caused a three- to four-inch opening and “serious damage to his femur, arteries and nerves before exiting through his left thigh.”
Thaer al-Astal, 15, tripped and fell when he was running away from the southern boundary east of Khan Younis on 2 February.
“When I rose, I looked toward the border and saw a soldier on top of a truck pointing his gun in my direction. I heard the sound of one live bullet and I fell to the ground,” the boy told Defense for Children International Palestine.
The group said that the bullet entered the boy’s “left lower back and exited his upper left thigh.” The injury caused a fracture in Thaer’s left hip “and caused nerve damage that may result in permanent paralysis.”
Also injured that same day during confrontations with soldiers in northern Gaza was Arkan Saad, 17.
“I bent over to pick up a stone from the ground when I heard the sound of one live bullet,” Arkan told Defense for Children International Palestine.
“I felt something under my left armpit between my back and my chest. It felt as hot as boiling oil.”
Doctors removed three pieces of shrapnel from the boy’s body.
“X-rays showed three additional pieces of shrapnel settled near Arkan’s lung and heart,” Defense for Children International Palestine stated.
Twelve Palestinians – half of them children under the age of 18 – have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank and Gaza so far this year.
Two Israelis were killed by Palestinians in the West Bank during the same period.