The death toll by Israeli aggression has risen to 44 since March 30, when Palestinians began staging protests to demand the 'right of return' to their homes, occupied by the Tel Aviv government decades ago.

Tear gas canisters are fired by Israeli troops at Palestinian demonstrators during protests demanding the right to return to their homeland, at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza City, on April 27, 2018.
Tear gas canisters are fired by Israeli troops at Palestinian demonstrators during protests demanding the right to return to their homeland, at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza City, on April 27, 2018. ( Reuters )

A Palestinian teenager has died of his wounds a day after being shot by Israeli forces in clashes along the Gaza border, the Hamas-controlled territory's health ministry said on Saturday.

Azzam Oweida, 15, was hit in the head during protests in southern Gaza on Friday, the ministry said.

His death brought to four the number of people killed or fatally wounded during a fifth consecutive Friday of protests in which thousands of Gazans have gathered near the heavily-guarded border.

Most protesters were peaceful but some threw stones and burned tyres.

Forty-four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the start of what organisers have dubbed the Great March of Return on March 30, with more than 1,500 wounded.

No Israelis have been reported hurt.

TRT World 's Muhammad Mansour reports from Gaza.

A journalist shot

The Israeli military said 10,000 Gazans were participating in what it described as "riots," and that some had tried to breach the border into Israel.

It said troops "had operated in accordance with the rules of engagement" to stop people crossing the border.

The Gaza health ministry said 200 were wounded by gun fire, including a Palestinian journalist who was hit in the foot by a bullet.

Dozens more, including four medics, were treated for gas inhalation, as Israeli forces showered the area with tear gas canisters from behind their fortifications in Israel.

Palestinian demonstrators run at a protest demanding the right to return to their homeland after Israeli troops fire at them at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 27, 2018.
Palestinian demonstrators run at a protest demanding the right to return to their homeland after Israeli troops fire at them at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 27, 2018. ( Reuters )

Stones against bullets

Protesters hurled stones and rolled burning tyres toward the fence, and some attached cans of burning petrol to kites and flew them into Israeli territory.

Others cleared away barbed wire coils, which Israeli troops had placed in Gazan territory overnight in a bid to create a buffer zone between protesters and the fence.

The protests come at a time of growing frustration for Palestinians as prospects for an independent Palestinian state look poor.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled for several years and Israeli settlements in the occupied territories have expanded.

TRT World's Reagan Des Vignes has more.

UN condemns Israeli violence

The UN rights chief on Friday urged Israeli forces to stop using excessive force against Palestinian protesters and called for troops who have committed abuses "to be held accountable."

"Every week, we witness instances of use of lethal force against unarmed demonstrators," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, said in a statement.  

"Warnings by the United Nations and others have seemingly gone unheeded, as the approach of the security forces from week to week does not seem to have changed," he added. 

Hussein called the loss of life deplorable and said a "staggering number" of injuries had been caused by live ammunition.

Israel's foreign ministry had no immediate comment, but the government has consistently said it is protecting its borders and that its troops are following rules of engagement.

Israel's UN envoy, Danny Danon, told the Security Council on Thursday that Hamas in Gaza was responsible for Palestinian casualties and that it was using innocent Palestinian women and children as human shields, while they cowered behind in safety.

Hamas denies the Israeli accusations. "Danon's comments are an attempt to escape responsibility and to cover up for the execution of unarmed children and people by occupation soldiers," said Hamas official Mushir Al Masri.

A Palestinian helps a man who is shot by Israeli troops near the eastern border of the Gaza Strip on April 27, 2018.
A Palestinian helps a man who is shot by Israeli troops near the eastern border of the Gaza Strip on April 27, 2018. ( AFP )

Palestinian official calls Israeli troops 'cowards'

The Palestinian UN ambassador on Friday challenged Israel to agree to an independent commission to investigate events in Gaza and determine "who are the criminals, who are violating international law and to hold them responsible for these crimes."

Riyad Mansour demanded to know why Israel won't accept an independent and transparent investigation, as Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for.

He said the Palestinians are exploring ideas, including at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court, to "stop this massacre and serve justice and to hold accountability."

"We will not leave a stone unturned," he told reporters at UN headquarters in New York on Friday.

"Those cowards who are hiding behind the hills and armed to the teeth ... with high velocity rifles to use them as snipers against civilians — shame on them. They are the cowards who are facing defenceless civilians and killing them, as one would go hunting in the open fields," Mansour said.

"If they are really a moral force," he said, "they would not conduct themselves in this matter. They would allow people to demonstrate peacefully without threatening their lives."

'Right to return home'

The rallies, named the 'Great March of Return', are part of a six-week protest that will culminate on May 15. That day will mark the 70th anniversary of Israel's establishment – an event Palestinians refer to as the "Nakba" or "The Catastrophe."

The protest action revives a longstanding demand for the right of return of Palestinian refugees to towns and villages that their families fled from or were driven out of when the state of Israel was founded in 1948.

Israel refuses any right of return, fearing that the country would lose its Jewish majority.

More than two million Palestinians are packed into the narrow coastal enclave.

Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but maintains tight control of its land and sea borders.

Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies