Israeli troops exchanging gunfire with Palestinian resistance fighters along the border with the Gaza Strip shot and killed a Palestinian child as he played soccer.
Reuters reports that fighters from the Popular Resistance Committee (PRC), a militant group resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestine, admitted that its gunmen attacked a group of four Israeli tanks and an armored bulldozer as they made a short cross-border incursion into Gaza near Khan Younis.
"Terrorists opened fire at IDF (Israel Defense Forces) soldiers while they were performing routine activity adjacent to the security fence," an Israeli military spokeswoman told Reuters in Jerusalem. IDF troops responded by returning fire toward "suspicious locations," another IDF official said.
Abu Ahmed Dagah, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy playing soccer near the site of the skirmish, was shot and killed by Israeli gunfire. CNN reports that the Gaza Health Ministry initially said the child was shot in the head by an Israeli helicopter, but witnesses said he was hit in the side by fire from IDF vehicles.
IDF Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich told CNN that an initial Israeli investigation "did not indicate the Israeli military had any connection to the shooting," although this was disputed by numerous witnesses to the incident.
Funeral services were held for the slain boy on Friday.
Dagah's death came as Israeli troops responded to the discovery of a cache of explosives in a tunnel adjacent to the security fence on the Israel-Gaza border. Soldiers repairing the fence were rocked by an explosion that injured one and destroyed a vehicle.
The incident marked an end to a nearly two-week break in hostilities between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants, mostly from Hamas, the democratically-elected rulers of Gaza. Last month, Hamas fired dozens of rockets and mortar rounds into southern Israel. Israel retaliated with air strikes, killing a number of militants.
Although the IDF unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Israel maintains a physical and economic stranglehold on the tiny enclave of 1.6 million people. Militants, mostly from Hamas, resisting the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine fired thousands of rockets into Israel, killing a handful of innocent civilians and resulting in the devastating 2008-2009 Cast Lead invasion of Gaza. More than 900 Gazan civilians died during the invasion, including 429 women and children.
In the wake of Cast Lead, Israel imposed a crippling economic blockade of Gaza and banned a long list of everyday items including clothing, shoes, salt, candles, toys, books, and even toilet paper and sanitary napkins from entering the battered and besieged territory. International human rights activists attempting to deliver humanitarian supplies through the blockade by sea were attacked and killed by Israeli troops in international waters.
The situation in Gaza grew so dire that British Prime Minister David Cameron called the territory a "prison camp," eliciting howls of anti-Semitism from some Israeli officials. An August 2012 United Nations report on Gaza concluded that the enclave may not be livable by the year 2020 unless urgent action is taken to improve the water supply, sanitation, health care and education system.
Prominent international observers, including former US President Jimmy Carter and fellow Nobel Laureates Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire as well as UN human rights official Richard Falk and even some Holocaust survivors, accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing and apartheid in the illegally-occupied Palestinian territories. Israeli officials and their pro-Zionist allies often respond by leveling accusations of anti-Semitism, or if the critics happen to be Jewish, they are often called "self-hating Jews."