Gaza death toll rises to 40 as Palestinian dies of wounds
GAZA CITY - Two Palestinians wounded in clashes with Israel were pronounced dead Monday, a Gaza official said, bringing the toll from Israeli fire since March 30 to 40.
A spokesman for the Hamas-controlled territory's health ministry named the latest fatalities as Tahrir Wahada, 18, and Abdullah Shamali, 20.
Wahada was shot in the head in a clash east of Khan Yunis on April 6, and Shamali died of "bullet wounds to his belly" sustained on Friday, according to the spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra.
Most of the 40 Palestinians killed by Israel since the start of "March of Return" protests on March 30 were shot by snipers on the border, while a few others were killed by Israeli artillery or air strikes.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians in the coastal enclave, wedged between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean, have gathered at the border on consecutive Fridays to call for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return to their former homes now inside Israel.
Some protestors have launched stones or burning tires at Israeli soldiers.
Israeli forces have responded with live ammunition, wounding hundreds in addition to those killed.
The Israeli army says its fores only open fire in self-defence or to stop protestors attempting to breach the barrier separating the territory from Israel.
More than 440 demonstrators suffered bullet wounds or gas inhalation on Friday, rescuers said.
Israel has drawn harsh criticism from rights groups along with calls for investigations by the United Nations or the European Union.
Israel has for more than a decade imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza, fighting three wars with Islamist movement Hamas since 2008.