UN Mideast Envoy: Stop shooting children

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A 15 year old Palestinian boy, Mohammed Ayoub, was killed in a recent border protest, sparking a heated Twitter exchange between the United Nations’ envoy to the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, and Peter Lerner, former spokesman for the Israeli military.

The young Palestinian was shot as he stood with a group of other protesters around 100 to 150 meters from the Gaza border. Mr. Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, understandably condemned the killing, which had come about because of Israeli live fire. 

Mr. Mladenov’s strong emotions can be gleaned from his tweet, which read, “It is OUTRAGEOUS to shoot at children! How does the killing of a child in #Gaza today help #peace? It doesn’t! It fuels anger and breeds more killing. #Children must be protected from #violence, not exposed to it, not killed! This tragic incident must be investigated.” This tweet was sent on April 21.

Peter Lerner, who had been the liaison officer and spokesperson for Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for more than two decades, called Mr. Mladenov’s tweet “unhelpful,” and offered steps that he considered to be more productive. Mr. Lerner responded to Mr. Mladenov with,

“This tweet unhelpful. @nmladenov here are some ideas. 

1. Please go to Gaza, engage Hamas and get them to stop sending people to the fence. 

2. Report to the @UN your efforts (not tweets) to restore calm. 

3. Stop Palestinian incitement and organized riots at the border.”

Mr. Lerner said in another tweet, “The tweet from THE most senior UN official does nothing to prevent the next death. Here’s another idea – get everybody on the UN payroll in Gaza to make a human chain at a safe distance and prevent people from going to the fence.”

To which Mr. Mladenov simply replied, “Here’s another idea. Stop shooting children.”

A tweet from Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, later called on the UN to condemn Hamas “or encouraging violence & for despicably exploiting women & children by placing them in harm’s way,” was sent later in the evening of April 21.

Jason Greenblatt, the special envoy of US President Donald Trump, has announced that an investigation on the death of Mohammad Ayoub has been launched in order to determine what really happened. Mr. Greenblatt has also called for both sides to “avoid causing more suffering.”

Mohammed Ayoub is just one of four people killed in the protests at the Gaza border last week. Another 156 people were injured when the Israeli military fired on the protesters, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza. 

The protests have been ongoing for four weeks now, and are expected to last another fortnight, as part of the “March of Return” that Hamas organized. 

The marches are expected to continue at least until May 15th, when Palestinians will commemorate the Nakba, the date Israel was established as a state.

The IDF has said that Palestinian demonstrators have tried to destroy the border fence, and have hurled explosives across it onto Israeli soldiers. 

So far, 34 Palestinians are said to have been killed by Israeli forces.