GAZA CITY — A 12-year-old boy gathering gravel near the Gaza-Israel border was wounded on Saturday by Israeli army fire, officials and witnesses said.
The boy was shot in the leg as he foraged for building materials near the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya, the officials said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman told AFP troops opened fire after a "group of suspects" approached to within about 50 metres (yards) of the border fence and ignored orders to turn back.
"The soldiers fired warning shots in the air a number of times in an attempt to drive them away," she said. "When the suspects failed to comply, the force fired toward their lower bodies and identified hitting one of them."
Gaza teenagers regularly risk injury or death to search for gravel in the ruins of abandoned Israeli settlement buildings along their side of the frontier, despite a strict 300-metre Israeli-imposed exclusion zone.
Building materials are scarce in the coastal strip due to Israeli sanctions and gravel finds a ready cash market.
Figures provided by Geneva-based rights group Defence for Children International show that in the six months between March and October this year, 14 teenage gravel-pickers were wounded by Israeli fire -- with those injured being shot in an area ranging from 50 to 800 metres from the border.
Israel says the no-go area is needed to prevent Palestinian snipers and bombers from reaching, and maybe breaching, the border fence.
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