The Israeli military said Palestinians opened fire and threw stones at a military vehicle patrolling the northern West Bank town of Jenin. Troops shot at the boy because they thought he was armed, then discovered he was carrying a toy M-16 rifle, the military said. Palestinian witnesses confirmed the boy was carrying a toy gun. Thursday was the first day of a major Muslim holiday, Eid el-Fitr, and Palestinian children frequently buy toy guns and receive gifts to celebrate.
The Palestinian rescue service Red Crescent transferred the boy, Ahmed Ismail Khatib, to an Israeli hospital, where officials said he was on life support with gunshot wounds to his head and stomach. At the time the soldiers were pursuing an Islamic Jihad fugitive, Husam Jarradat, who escaped, Palestinian witnesses said.
In Gaza violence, Palestinian militants lobbed mortar shells across the Gaza fence into Israel. The military said a soldier was slightly wounded when a shell exploded in an army camp next to the village of Nahal Oz, the AP reports.
Israel responded with artillery fire toward the area of northern Gaza used by militants to launch rockets and mortars. On Wednesday, two mortar shells hit an Israeli village, wounding an 18-year-old girl and damaging a house.
Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in September, it has hit back hard for Palestinian attacks. Moving artillery batteries into the region last month for the first time was a signal of Israel's refusal to tolerate violence. Also, Israeli helicopters have targeted vehicles carrying militants, killing several leaders of violent groups.
In the West Bank, Israeli soldiers carry out frequent arrest raids, detaining suspected militants. Sometimes the raids turn bloody. On Wednesday an Israeli soldier was killed, and earlier in the week, soldiers killed three militants.
Palestinians charge that Israel itself is provoking violence with its raids. Despite a truce declared in February, which has significantly reduced violence, groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad have assumed the right to retaliate from Gaza for Israeli operations in the West Bank, leading to cycles of attacks and reprisals. A.M.