Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) – President Mahmud Abbas called on Monday for Palestinians to keep their children from protests along the border between Israel and Gaza, warning of a “handicapped” generation.
“Keep the young men from the border, move the children away, we do not want to become handicapped people,” he said in a speech in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Forty-eight Palestinians have been killed and hundreds injured by Israeli fire since regular protests and clashes broke out along the Gaza border on March 30.
At least six of the dead have been aged 18 or younger.
Speaking at the opening of a rare meeting of the Palestinian National Council, Abbas said he supported “peaceful” protests along the border, but wanted to “protect the next generation”.
The deaths have led to criticism of Israel’s use of live ammunition.
After a 15-year-old was killed, United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nickolay Mladenov wrote on Twitter: “It is OUTRAGEOUS to shoot at children… #Children must be protected from #violence, not exposed to it.”
The protests have been taking place in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, while Abbas runs the Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank.
Israel has fought three wars with Hamas since 2008 and has accused the Islamist group of seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out attacks.
It says it only opens fire when necessary to stop damage to the fence, infiltrations and attackers.
But no Israelis have been hurt, and UN chief Antonio Guterres and the European Union have called for an independent investigation into the deaths.
Israel has rejected such calls, saying its open-fire rules are necessary to protect the border.