Tear-gas canister puts Gazan on life support

GAZA, June 8 (Reuters) - A Palestinian was on life support in a Gaza hospital on Friday after being struck in the face by a tear-gas canister fired by an Israeli soldier.

Israel says it uses tear gas as a non-lethal measure against Gaza border protests.

But the projectile, launched by a soldier on the Israeli side of the frontier, hit Haitham Abu Sabla in the face as he watched Palestinian stone-throwers taking part in demonstrations east of Khan Younis town, witnesses said.

As seen in these pictures by Reuters photographer Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, the 23-year-old staggered back with the gas-spewing canister embedded in his cheek, his shirt bloodied, before collapsing.

A Gaza hospital official said Abu Sabla was placed on life support after the canister was surgically removed.

Abu Mustafa said: "An Israeli soldier came out of a military jeep and fired tear gas bombs ... and demonstrators began to run. They began to run further back and there was one of them who had gas coming out of his face. He ran before me directly,"

"I started taking photos of him as he ran, before he fell to the ground and medics rushed to help him."

"It looked scary, a man with smoke and gas coming from inside his face," he said.

An Israeli army spokesman had no immediate comment on Abu Sabla's injury. He referred Reuters to an earlier statement that said troops were using what force was required to prevent around 10,000 Palestinians from posing an armed infiltration threat.

Abu Sabla's older brother, Mahmoud, said they were both regulars at the protests against Israel launched on March 30 and in which the army has killed at least 123 Palestinians, according to Gaza medics.

"It was a must-go for us. We've never missed a Friday," he said.

(Reporting by Nidal Almughrabi, Writing by Dan Williams, Editing by William Maclean)