Mofeed Abu Imghaseet, 25, from Khan Yunis, was seriously injured late on Wednesday night after being shot by Israeli troops near the border fence in the northern Gaza "no-go" zone.

Palestinian medical sources said Abu Imghaseet had wandered off towards the border, unaware of his location, when he was shot.

"He's currently in the hospital, in serious but stable condition. He was injured in the left thigh, after being found near the fence, where he had wandered off to," said Ziad Abu Shareea of the Kamel Udwan Hospital in Jabalia.

A spokesperson for the Israeli army said Israeli troops shot at Abu Imghaseet after noticing "a figure which was acting suspiciously" approaching the northern Gaza Strip border fence.

Unarmed target

"The figure was identified after having crossed the first barbwire fence and was at the time only several metres from the fence which protects the civilian residents of the nearby Israeli communities. The force fired at the figure's lower body and identified hitting him," army spokesman Eido Minkovsky told Aljazeera.net.

"He's currently in the hospital, in serious but stable condition. He was injured in the left thigh, after being found near the fence, where he had wandered off to"

Ziad Abu Shareea,
Kamel Udwan Hospital official

Minkovsky said the man was unarmed.

Asked why the mentally disabled man was shot at close range even after he was identified as unarmed, Minkovsky said "following army protocol, if the character wont' stop after two warning shots, we are obligated to shoot at a lower body part".

Also on Wednesday, in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers shot and killed Mujahid Samadi, a mentally disabled 15-year-old Palestinian boy, who was carrying a toy gun in the village of Qabatiya, south of Jenin.

Israeli claim

A spokesman for the army said that initial reports indicated that soldiers had identified a "suspect armed with a weapon who was threatening them and fired in his direction".

On 14 February, Israeli forced shot dead Nayfa Abu Imsaaid, 25, while she was tending to her goats near her home, not far from the Israeli border fence on the eastern end of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces told Aljazeera.net that distinguishing unarmed Palestinian woman and children from attackers was difficult.

Israeli troops have a reputation
of being trigger-happy

Avichai Adroaee, an army spokesman, said: "There are dozens of attempts to infiltrate into Israel and plant bombs near the fence, night and day, and we have a problem trying to figure out who is trying to do this and who is not, and naturally this is why soldiers are quick to shoot and why the shots are sometimes lethal."

Lethal shots

Asked why soldiers do not use night-vision goggles or binoculars, the spokesman said: "There are always warning shots first. Sometimes these warning shots hurt people. This matter is under investigation."

Abu Imsaid's death was the second civilian killing near Gaza's border fence in less than two weeks. On 27 January, an eight-year-old girl, Aya al-Astal, was killed after being shot four times - twice in the neck - by Israeli soldiers stationed just outside the border.

A Palestinian ambulance found her bullet-riddled body hours after the incident.

According to UN statistics (the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), at least 12 unarmed Palestinians, including 3 children, have been killed by Israeli troops for being too close to the Gaza border since mid-October.  Israel withdrew all of its illegal settlements and troops from Gaza last summer.

At least 15 Palestinians have been wounded near the fence since that time.