Two Palestinians were reportedly killed by Israeli fire in clashes along the Israel-Gaza border Tuesday evening, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the coastal enclave.
The two men were killed during fresh protests near the Erez checkpoint between Gaza and Israel, the scene of regular confrontation between stone-throwing youths and Israeli soldiers in recent months.
There was no immediate comment from the army about the clashes that came just after the start of the Yom Kippur holiday in Israel.
The clashes came after two Gazans were killed in an Israeli strike near the border fence with the enclave, the ministry said early Tuesday.
The Israel Defense Forces had earlier said Monday night that its aircraft targeted Palestinians who approached the fence and placed what the military said was a suspicious object.
“An IDF aircraft attacked terrorists who approached the fence in the southern Gaza Strip in a suspicious manner and planted a suspicious object along it,” the army said in a statement.
According to Palestinian sources, the incident took place east of Khan Younis, in the southern Strip.
The Gaza-Israel frontier has been volatile for months, with the Hamas terror group leading weekly marches on the fence that have recently ramped back up after a brief lull in tensions.
On Monday, thousands gathered on Gaza’s Mediterranean beach, near the fence separating the territory from Israel.
Some activists sailed in small fishing boats near the fence, flying the Palestinian flag. Israeli gunboats shot around the boats.
Israel said some protesters on land burned tear gas and threw stones, and troops fired tear gas and live rounds.
A group of Gazans were also said to have broken through the security fence and entered Israeli territory on Monday night, setting fire to an empty IDF sniper post near the border, according to an unconfirmed report.
Twenty-six protesters were wounded by Israeli army fire, Gaza health officials said.
Israeli fire has killed at least 131 Palestinians during the protests which began in late March. Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, has acknowledged that dozens of the fatalities were its members.
Israel says its actions — and in particular the use of live ammunition — are necessary to defend the border and stop mass infiltrations from the territory. Israel has accused the Hamas terror group of encouraging the protests and using them as cover to attempt to carry out terror attacks, including firing at troops and attempting to breach the border fence.
Last week, the Israeli military destroyed two improvised explosive devices that had been planted along the Gaza security fence, including one near the site of Monday night’s strike. One of the bombs had been hidden inside a blue jerry can, while the other was buried underground and connected to a receiver so it could be detonated remotely, according to the army.
A surge of violence in Gaza began in March with a series of protests along the border that were dubbed the “March of Return.” The clashes, which Israel says are being orchestrated by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, have included regular rock and Molotov cocktail attacks on troops, as well as shooting and IED attacks aimed at IDF soldiers and attempts to breach the border fence.
Gaza protesters have also launched incendiary kites and balloons into Israel, sparking fires that have destroyed forests, burned crops and killed livestock. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials. Some balloons have carried improvised explosive devices.