JERUSALEM/GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli forces killed four heavily-armed Palestinians as they attempted to cross the Gaza border on Saturday, the Israeli military said.
“The soldiers opened fire after one of the terrorists crossed the border, and killed them,” the military said on Twitter.
The men were armed with assault rifles, anti-tank missiles and hand grenades, the military said. It released photographs of the weapons laid out on the ground.
Military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told reporters the men’s mission was unclear but that a large-scale attack against soldiers or civilians had been prevented.
None of Gaza’s Palestinian militant groups claimed the dead men as members. Conricus said the military was trying to determine their affiliation. He said they were dressed in different uniforms and that they engaged in a gun fight with the soldiers before they were killed. No Israelis were hurt.
Gaza is ruled by the Islamist group Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel over the past decade. Conricus said Hamas bore overall responsibility for any violence emanating from the Gaza Strip.
In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum declined to comment on the details of Saturday’s border incident but blamed Israel for the violence.
“What happened reflects the anger against the occupation’s crimes in Jerusalem and against the continued unjust blockade of Gaza,” Barhoum said.
Israel pulled its troops and settlers from the territory in 2005 but keeps the enclave under a blockade, citing security concerns. Tensions along the border are high with frequent fatalities.
Reporting by Maayan Lubell and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Kim Coghill and Janet Lawrence