By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) – Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian man and wounded 25 including two medics on Monday during Palestinian protests along the Gaza Strip’s beachfront border with Israel, the Gaza Health Ministry said.
Witnesses said dozens of protesters in the northern Gaza Strip burned tyres and threw stones at Israeli soldiers stationed behind Israel’s frontier fence and that troops fired live bullets and tear gas.
The Gaza Health Ministry said a 27-year-old Palestinian man was killed by the Israeli gunfire.
The Israeli military, estimating the crowd at around 3,000 people, said explosive devices were also thrown at troops deployed on the Israeli side of the fence along the beach.
The soldiers, a military spokesman said, responded with “riot dispersal means and live fire”.
Gaza medics have tallied 217 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during almost seven months of protests that have included brief breaches of the border fence and the launching of incendiary balloons that have torched fields in southern Israel.
On Sunday, three Palestinian boys were killed in an Israeli air strike at the Gaza frontier, medics said. Israel said it targeted Palestinians trying to blow up part of the fence.
Some of the protesters on Monday held photos of the three youngsters. The Health Ministry said two were aged 13 and one was a 14-year-old.
Palestinians say they are protesting against Israel’s blockade of the territory and in support of a right for Palestinian refugees to return to land lost during Israel’s founding in 1948.
One Israeli soldier has been killed by a sniper during the more than seven months of protests.
Israel says its lethal response to the protests is necessary to prevent armed infiltration from Gaza, which is run by the Hamas Islamist militant group. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2007.
Violence along the border has occasionally escalated into Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes, with Egypt and the United Nations repeatedly mediating ceasefires.
Two million Palestinians live in tiny Gaza, most of them stateless descendants of people who fled or were driven from homes in Israel during its founding 70 years ago.
The enclave is in a state of economic collapse, the World Bank says, citing the restrictions on Palestinian movement and the import of goods that Israel and Egypt have enforced along the Gaza border.
The two countries have said those measures stem from security concerns.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Mark Heinrich)