Israel kills two Palestinian teenagers in Gaza as protests resume

Thousands held demonstrations along the perimeter fence separating the enclave from Israel

epa07353875 Palestinian protesters run for cover from Israeli tear-gas during clashes after Friday protests near the border between Israel and Gaza Strip, east Gaza, 08 February 2019. According to local media reports, Two Palestinians 14 and 17 years-old boys were shot dead allegedly by Israeli snipers during clashes along the border between Gaza Strip and Israel. Palestinian protesters call for the right of Palestinian refugees across the Middle East to return to homes they fled in the war surrounding the 1948 creation of Israel.  EPA/MOHAMMED SABER
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Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinian teenagers in the Gaza Strip on Friday as protests against the siege of the enclave resumed with thousands massing at the perimetre fence that borders Israel.

The killings added to the death toll from months of weekly protests by Palestinians who have rallied in the face of Israeli sniper fire. At last 249 Palestinians have been killed since March 30 when the protests began.

Hassan Shalabi, 14, "was killed by Israeli occupation live fire to the chest east of Khan Yunis" in the southern Gaza, the territory's health ministry said.

It announced the death of 18-year-old Hamza Ishtawi shortly after, saying he was shot in the neck during similar clashes east of Gaza City.

Another 17 Palestinians were shot and wounded at different protest sites along the border, the ministry added.

The Israeli army declined to comment on the deaths, but said 6,700 "rioters and demonstrators" had been protesting along the frontier.

"They are hurling rocks at (Israeli) troops and towards the security fence, as well as a number of explosive devices that did not cross the fence," a spokesman said.

Israeli troops "responded with riot dispersal means and fired according to standard operating procedures", he added.

The violence sometimes escalated into brief rounds of cross-border exchanges of rockets and airstrikes but protests have dwindled in recent months after an informal agreement between Israel and Hamas.

Egypt has since eased Palestinian movement through its border and Israel allowed Qatar to send financial aid to Gaza, but the Hamas says this is insufficient.

Earlier this week, Israel began reinforcing its fence, erecting a galvanised steel barrier six meters (20 feet) high that will run the length of Gaza's perimetre.

Gaza is home to 2 million Palestinians, nearly all of them the stateless descendents of people who fled or were driven out of Israel on its founding in 1948.