By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - Hundreds of Gazans on Wednesday attended the funeral of a four-year-old boy who died after being hit by Israeli shrapnel at a border protest last week, according to Palestinian medical officials.
Wrapped in a Palestinian flag, the body of Ahmed Abu Abed was carried on people's shoulders as mourners threw flowers into the procession in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza.
Reuters footage from the protest last Friday showed the boy being carried by a medic into a field hospital not far from the border after being injured.
Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said he "was hit by shrapnel from Israeli gunfire".
"There was one piece of bullet shrapnel in the eye that settled at the bottom of the brain, that was the most serious of all, and that what most likely killed him," Mohammad Abu Hilal, director of emergency department at Khan Younis hospital, told Reuters.
Gaza's health ministry, run by the Islamist militant group Hamas, said more than 220 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops since March at border protests demanding an end to an Israeli-led blockade of the coastal strip.
Israel's military said it did "everything possible to avoid harming children," and accused Hamas of endangering the lives of civilians by orchestrating the protests.
"The Hamas terrorist organisation cynically uses Gaza residents, especially women and children, as human shields and places them at the forefront of the violent riots, terrorist attacks and the terror of arson, demonstrating their contempt for human life," the military statement said.
Hamas denies the allegation and Palestinians accuse Israel of using excessive force against protesters.
The boy's father, Yasser Abu Abed, who suffered a leg injury, said they were among a hundred other protesters nearly 300 metres (1,000 feet) from the fence when Israeli forces opened fire. "We did not expect anything bad would happen as things were calm," he said.
(Writing by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)