Israel’s Military Advocate General will open the first criminal investigations into two incidents in which Palestinians were shot dead by Israel Defense Force (IDF) forces during violent clashes on the Gaza border.
The investigations into the shootings of the two teens are the first probes into the deaths of at least 171 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire since months of violent clashes erupted along the border during mass protests that began at the end of March.
One Israeli has been killed by Palestinian sniper fire in that time.
The first probe concerns the death of 18-year-old Abed el-Fatah Abed e-Nabi, who died after being shot in the back while retreating from the border fence east of Jabalya on March 30, the day that weekly organized mass protests along the border kicked off.
Video of the incident showed three young Palestinians running in an open field near the border fence, while a group of nearby Palestinians yell “Allah Akhbar”. As Abed e-Nabi reaches the group, he is shot in the back.
The second probe concerns the death of 15-year-old Osman Rami Halas, who died in a Gaza City hospital after being shot by IDF forces as protests along the northern part of the border turned violent on July 13.
Following Halas’s death, the IDF said that soldiers had returned fire after an Israeli soldier was hit by a grenade thrown by a Palestinian from just inside the Gaza border fence.
The so-called “Great March of Return” protests have seen, at times, tens of thousands of Palestinians amass along the border fence demanding the right to return to ancestral homes from which they were forced to flee during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment.
The protests have often turned deadly, with clashes erupting as some Palestinians hurl stones or explosive devices at soldiers, attempt to breach the border fence, and launch airborne incendiary devices into Israeli territory where they have torched extensive patches of agricultural land.
Israel’s use of live fire against protesters has been the subject of intense international scrutiny, leading to accusations against the IDF of excessive use of force.
Israel has maintained that troops only open fire in self-defense or in response to terror activities including attempts by protesters to breach the border. It also accuses Hamas of having hijacked the protests, placing civilians in harms way for its own means.
At least 50 of those killed during the clashes have been claimed by Hamas — the Islamist group that rules Gaza — or other militant groups.