GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel’s military says its forces shot and killed two Palestinians who breached the Gaza border and entered its territory as tensions there mounted Sunday.
Palestinian medic Izzat Shatat said that soldiers fired tank shells and machine guns. He said the Palestinians killed may have been “too close” to the fence but he was not sure if they had actually crossed into Israel.
The Gaza border has been the scene of violence over the past weeks.
The Islamic militant group Hamas that rules Gaza has been leading mass Palestinian protests there every Friday as part of a weeks-long campaign against a decade-old blockade of the territory.
Since protests began at the end of March there have been 42 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire along the border, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
Israel says that it is defending its sovereign border, including nearby communities, and that its troops target only instigators. Israel accuses Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, of trying to carry out attacks under the guise of the mass protests.
The military said soldiers on Sunday thwarted “an attempt to infiltrate into Israeli territory and sabotage security infrastructure.”
Earlier Sunday, Hamas vowed revenge after blaming Israel for an explosion the night before that killed six of its fighters.
Hamas said that Israel “will pay a heavy price” for the Saturday explosion.
Gaza media initially reported the blast as a “work accident,” but Hamas now says the militants, including two commanders, were killed “dismantling booby-trapped spying equipment planted by Israel during the past decade in Gaza.” It did not elaborate or provide any evidence.
Israel’s military declined to comment.
Also Sunday, Hamas’ supreme leader, Ismail Haniyeh, was among thousands of Palestinians who attended funerals held for militants.
The weekly protests also press for a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to what is now Israel. The protests are to culminate on May 15, the anniversary of Israel’s founding. Palestinians mark the date as their “nakba,” or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were displaced in the 1948 war over Israel’s creation.
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