A Palestinian teenager has been shot dead by an Israeli soldier in the southern Gaza Strip during a demonstration, Gaza’s Ministry of Health and family members said.
Mo’men Abu Ayadeh, 15, was shot in the head by an Israeli sniper on Wednesday night near the fence east of Rafah, the spokesperson for the health ministry Ashraf al-Qidra said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers had come under attack on the fence, with stones and firebombs thrown at them. Live rounds were fired according to “open-fire regulations”, she said.
No Israeli casualties were reported.
According to Mo’men’s family, he was protesting for an end to the 12-year Israeli blockade and for the right of return of Palestinian refugees as part of the Great March of Return rallies that began on March 30.
His father, Ibrahim Abu Ayadeh, told Al Jazeera that Mo’men attended the protests religiously.
“Mo’men cared deeply about the march of return protests,” the 46-year-old said. “He was deeply affected by the injustice of daily life in the Gaza Strip, from the ongoing blockade and the difficult living situations.”
The teen, along with his friends, were members of a newly formed youth-led unit of the popular protests called Irbak al-Leili, or “nocturnal disturbance”. Members protest near the fence from early evening until midnight and participate in a number of unarmed tactics such as pointing laser lights at Israeli snipers stationed behind the fence.
Another tactic includes blasting national songs on loudspeakers, as well as sending vocal messages to settlers in the vicinity of the besieged coastal enclave with the message that they are living on stolen Palestinian land.
Mo’men, his father said, was shot directly in the head by a sniper’s bullet at around 11:30 pm (20:00GMT).
“My son was protesting peacefully in a peaceful popular movement,” he said, adding that the Israeli occupation has normalised the targeting of women, children and elderly.
“We have a right as Palestinians to protest against the blockade in any way,” he continued.
“If the siege was lifted, then there would be no more protests. But we want our rights, and the protests will not stop with the killing of my son.”
At least 173 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since the start of the protests five months ago, with 18,000 others wounded.
Additional reporting by Maram Humaid