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Israel opens fire on Gazans at border, 3 dead

By AFP - Aug 18,2019 - Last updated at Aug 18,2019

Palestinian paramedics carry a wounded protester during confrontations with Israeli forces near the fence along the border with Israel in the eastern Gaza Strip on Friday (AFP photo)

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — Israel said it opened fire on Palestinians on Gaza's border overnight and Hamas' health ministry reported three dead Sunday.

Israel's tank and helicopter fire came after three rockets were allegedly fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel late Saturday, the Israeli forces claimed.

Two rockets were intercepted by Israel's air defence systems, it claimed, without specifying what happened to the third.

Israeli authorities reported no casualties in Israel, but said a rocket fragment fell on a house in the southern Israeli town of Sderot.

Hours later, Israeli forces claimed that "troops spotted a number of armed suspects adjacent to the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip".

It added that an "attack helicopter and a tank fired towards them".

The health ministry in the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas reported three dead and said another Palestinian was hospitalised following the Israeli attack in Beit Lahia.

It identified those killed as Mahmoud Al Walayda, 24, Mohammed Abu Namus, 27, and Mohammed Samir Al Taramsi, 26.

Hamas in a statement called their deaths "another crime by the Israeli occupation to be added to its grim toll against the Palestinian people's rights, land and holy sites".

Palestinian group Islamic Jihad issued a statement mourning their deaths, but did not claim them as members.

"We affirm the right of our people to resist and confront all forms of Zionist aggression," it said.

A series of incidents along the Gaza border has tested a fragile truce between Hamas and Israel in recent days.

On Friday night, Israel claimed that its missile defence systems intercepted a rocket from Gaza.

Israel said it carried out strikes in response on two Hamas “underground targets” in the northern and central Gaza Strip, without providing further details.

A Gaza security source reported three Israeli strikes on a Hamas observation post, an unidentified target near Gaza City and one that hit open ground in the central part of the enclave.

No casualties were reported.


Netanyahu under pressure 


The exchange came after a series of other incidents along the Gaza border since the start of the month.

A week ago, a Palestinian was killed by Israeli forces after they reported being shot at, the army and Hamas’ health ministry said.

A day before that, Israel’s army said its troops shot dead four “heavily armed” Palestinians on the border, claiming that one had managed to cross and “throw a grenade at soldiers”.

Regular protests and clashes erupted along the border of the blockaded Gaza Strip in March 2018.

At least 305 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza or the border area since then, the majority during demonstrations and clashes.

Seven Israelis have also been killed in Gaza-related violence over the same period.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is widely seen as wanting to avoid an escalation in the Gaza Strip before September 17 elections, but he also faces heavy political pressure to respond firmly.

Beyond the Gaza incidents, there has also been an uptick in tension in occupied Jerusalem and West Bank.

Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 war. It later annexed East Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.

It views the entire city as its capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

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