GAZA - Thousands of angry Palestinian mourners attended on Saturday the funerals of seven Palestinians, including two children, who were shot dead by Israeli gunfire during the protests in the eastern Gaza Strip close to the border with Israel. In each funeral of the seven killed, the mourners took their bodies from the mortuary, while gunmen fired into the air during the procession to their homes. "The Israeli army is a criminal army and committed crimes against humanity, mainly the killing of children. My son and all other children can't represent any danger, risk or threat either to their life or to their security," said Nayef al-Hoom, father of the 14-year-old killed boy Mohamed al-Hoom.

In the house of Nasser Musabeh, a 12-year-old boy killed in the Friday protests, his families, friends and neighbours received the boy's body with deep grief.

Outside Nasser's house, hundreds of people gathered to offer condolences to the bereaved family. "What was our fault in order (for Israel) to kill children? Why are they (Israelis) killing children?" asked 12-year-old Mohamed Ibrahim, one of Nasser's friends.

The Gaza health ministry said on Friday that the Israeli army killed seven Palestinians, including two children under 15, and wounded 506 others, in the Palestinian March of Return rallies.

"The high number of martyrs and injuries yesterday confirms the excessive use of the policy of force (by Israel) against the peaceful demonstrators," Abdulatif al-Qanoua, spokesman of Hamas which controls Gaza, said by phone.

Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesman of the health ministry in Gaza, said on telephone that Israeli forces have killed at least 193 Palestinians, and injured 21,000 others since March 30, the first day of the ongoing Palestinian "Great March of Return" rally against Israel's 12-year crippling blockade and the US embassy move to the disputed holy city of Jerusalem.