Israel opens probe into soldiers who killed two Gaza protesters

Israeli soldiers keep watch as a Palestinian demonstrator gestures along the Gaza-Israeli border on June 5, 2018

Israel's army announced Tuesday an investigation into soldiers who shot dead two Palestinian teenagers in separate incidents on the Gaza border, the first such probe in months of protests and clashes.

Its decision to open an investigation was a rare step and comes with Israel having faced international criticism over its use of live fire during unrest along the Gaza frontier.

Israel maintains its use of force is necessary to defend the border and stop infiltrations and attacks.

An army statement said that Abdul Fatah Abdul Nabi, 18, was shot dead near the border fence in the northern Gaza Strip on March 30, one of 20 Palestinians killed that day as Gazans launched a wave of mass protests along the frontier called the "March of Return".

Tuesday's army statement did not give the circumstances of Nabi's death but the military said at the time that 10 of those killed had "documented terror backgrounds" in Islamist movement Hamas and other militant groups and were killed "whilst carrying out acts of terror."

Video posted on Israeli news site Ynet at the time appeared to show Nabi running away from the fence while carrying a tyre, when he is shot in the back and falls to the ground.

The other death under investigation, the army said, was of 15-year-old Othman Rami Halles, who was shot east of Gaza City on July 13.

A Palestinian video posted on Facebook showed what it says is Halles, apparently empty-handed, starting to climb the border fence then fall back onto the Gaza side as the sound of gunfire is heard.

The army did not say what led the Military Advocate General to order the investigations into the two deaths, speaking only of "a suspicion that the shooting in these incidents was not in accordance with standard operating procedures."

"Upon the completion of the investigations, the findings will be examined by the Military Advocate General," the army statement said.

Military police will carry out the investigation.

Since March 30, 171 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, mostly in clashes on the frontier.

One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.

UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov and Egyptian officials have been seeking to broker a long-term truce between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers, which have fought three wars since 2008.

The Gaza border has been notably calmer in recent days as speculation over the indirect negotiations has intensified.