GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP >> A 12-year-old Palestinian boy who was shot in the head by Israeli fire during a violent demonstration at the Gaza-Israeli border last week died of his wounds Saturday, Gaza health officials said.
Hassan Abu al-Neil was shot Aug. 21 during the demonstration organized by Gaza’s Hamas rulers to protest the crippling blockade imposed by Egypt and Israel.
Violence erupted when Palestinian protesters began throwing rocks and explosives at Israeli troops near the fortified border. Israeli troops responded by opening fire, wounding over 40 Palestinians, including al-Neil.
Another Palestinian man, later identified as a member of Hamas’ military wing, died from his wounds Wednesday.
An Israeli soldier remains in critical condition after being shot in the head from point blank range by a protestor during the clashes.
Later Saturday, Hamas-linked operatives launched a number of incendiary balloons from Gaza, sparking two fires in southern Israel, according to the Israeli Fire Service.
There were no immediate reports of any injuries. But Israel often responds to the fires with airstrikes on Hamas targets
Over the past weeks, Hamas has launched incendiary balloons several times into southern Israel, resulting in multiple fires on the Israeli side of the border.
Hamas also planned another border protest Saturday night in an attempt to maintain pressure on Israel to ease the blockade.
A protest on Wednesday passed without serious violence. Under pressure from Egyptian mediators, Hamas kept demonstrators away from the separation fence. But it was not immediately known whether Hamas would increase the intensity of the protests on Saturday.
Following Wednesday’s protest, Israel said it was easing some of the commercial restrictions on Gaza, allowing vehicles, goods and equipment for rebuilding projects to enter the Palestinian enclave. Israel’s Defense Ministry said the easing could expand further if things remain quiet.
Egypt, which had closed its border crossing with Gaza to put pressure on Hamas, also partially reopened the crossing to allow a light flow of traffic to enter Gaza from Egypt.
The Israeli government reached an agreement with Qatar on Aug. 19 allowing the gulf country to resume aid payments to families in the Gaza Strip, a move aimed at reducing tensions with Hamas in the aftermath of May’s 11-day war. Israel suspended aid payments in May and said the move was necessary to ensure Hamas did not benefit from cash injections.
Israel has fought four wars and numerous smaller battles with Hamas since the Islamic militant group took control of Gaza in 2007, a year after winning a Palestinian election
At least 260 Palestinians were killed during May’s Gaza-Israel war, including 67 children and 39 women, according to the Gaza health ministry. Hamas has acknowledged the deaths of 80 militants. Twelve civilians, including two children, were killed in Israel, along with one soldier.