Israeli troops kill Gaza man armed with ax: military

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian who tried to cross the border from Gaza armed with an ax on Monday, the military said in a statement.

The army circulated a picture of what it said was the ax lying on the ground near the border. A second Palestinian who was with the man fled after they damaged Israel’s security fence, a military spokesman said.

There was no immediate comment from Palestinian officials on the incident, which comes at a time of renewed violence along the Israel-Gaza frontier.

Last week militants from Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, fired dozens of rockets and mortar bombs at Israel, drawing Israeli air and tank strikes in the heaviest round of fighting in years.

Since March 30 Israeli troops have killed at least 120 Palestinians during mass demonstrations along the Gaza border, drawing international condemnation.

Israel says many of those killed were Hamas members and militants trying to breach the border and launch attacks under cover of the protests. The United States has expressed support for Israel’s actions.

The Palestinians say most of the dead and the thousands wounded were unarmed civilians against whom Israel was using excessive force.

More than 2 million Palestinians are packed into Gaza, a narrow coastal enclave where unemployment is high and poverty widespread.

Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but maintains tight control of its land and sea borders, citing security concerns. Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border.

Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Matthew Mpoke Bigg