IDF shoots at 3 Palestinians who breach border fence, flee back to Gaza
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IDF shoots at 3 Palestinians who breach border fence, flee back to Gaza

Army denies media reports that said suspects opened fire on Israeli troops and equipment along enclave’s border

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli forces are deployed near Kibbutz Nir Oz at the Gaza-Israel border amid smoke from tires burned by Palestinians near Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip on April 6, 2018. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
Israeli forces are deployed near Kibbutz Nir Oz at the Gaza-Israel border amid smoke from tires burned by Palestinians near Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip on April 6, 2018. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

Israeli troops opened fire on three Palestinians who were spotted crossing into Israeli territory from the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday afternoon, the army said, amid heightened tensions along the Gaza border.

The Israel Defense Forces denied reports that the suspects had shot at Israeli equipment or troops.

According to the army, the three men were seen crossing the security fence and then returning to Gaza.

“IDF troops fired toward them,” the army said.

Palestinian media reported that a tank had fired shells at the men. The IDF would not comment on the claim.

There were no immediate reports of Palestinian casualties.

No IDF soldiers were hurt.

“The circumstances of the breach are being investigated,” the army said.

This infiltration is the latest incident in a series of escalating events along the Gaza border.

On Friday, tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered along the security fence, burning tires and throwing firebombs and rocks at Israeli soldiers, who responded with tear gas and live fire, the army and witnesses said, as Palestinians held a second “March of Return” protest. Nine Gazans were killed and over 1,000 wounded in the day’s clashes.

The IDF said it thwarted multiple efforts on Friday to breach the border fence — and that it used live fire to do so in some instances — as well as attempts to activate bombs against the troops under the cover of smoke from the protests.

The week before, more than 30,000 people participated in a similar demonstration along the border, which also included multiple attempts to tear down the security fence and to plant explosives alongside it, according to the IDF.

Friday’s demonstration was the second of what Gaza’s ruling Hamas terror group said would be several weeks of “March of Return” protests which Hamas leaders say ultimately aim to see the removal of the border and the liberation of Palestine.

An Islamist terror group, Hamas violently took control of Gaza from Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah in 2007, two years after Israel withdrew its military and civilian presence from the Strip. Israel and Egypt maintain a security blockade of Gaza. Israel says this is vital to prevent Hamas — which has fought three rounds of conflict against Israel since seizing Gaza, firing thousands of rockets into Israel and digging dozens of attack tunnels under the border — from importing weaponry.

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