Israeli forces have shot dead at least two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian health officials.
The killing on Sunday of Baha Abdul Rahman Qdeih, 23, and Mohammad Khaled Abu Rideh, 20, raised the death toll of Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers since a new wave of protests began on March 30 to at least 43.
Ashraf al-Qudra, Gaza’s health ministry spokesman, said the two men were killed after Israeli soldiers opened fire of Khan Younis city in the southern part of the besieged enclave.
Qdeih died on the scene, while Abu Rideh succumbed to his wounds shortly after being transferred to Gaza’s European Hospital, the Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.
A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told Al Jazeera Israeli troops had opened fire and shot dead three Palestinians, claiming that a group of four people were attempting to “infiltrate into Israel and damage [security] infrastructure”.
There was no comment regarding the condition, or whereabouts, of the fourth individual.
The Great March of Return
The killings follow weeks of protests in the besieged Gaza Strip as part of the Great March of Return movement, with marchers demanding the right to return to their homes seized by Israel 70 years ago.
The rallies are part of a six-week protest that will culminate on May 15 to mark what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, or “catastrophe” – a reference to Israel’s establishment in 1948 and when 750,000 Arabs were removed from Palestine.
At least 350 people have been injured in this weekend’s demonstrations, three of them critically, after Israeli forces again fired live ammunition and tear gas at Palestinians.
More than 7,000 Palestinians have been wounded in total.
There have been no Israeli casualties.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies