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One of two men shot by Israel may be Egyptian resident

GAZA (Reuters) - Palestinians on Tuesday buried two men killed by Israeli forces on the Gaza border whose unclaimed bodies stirred speculation they might have been foreign migrant workers or al Qaeda supporters.

One of the two was later named by Hamas who said that Israeli troops who found the bodies on January 6 had told ambulance workers at the scene that they had discovered documents naming one and identifying him as an Egyptian resident.

“Israeli occupation forces at the scene had told ambulance workers who collected the two bodies they had seized an identity card on one of the two men identifying him as Mustafa Abdel-Fattah Mohammed from Giza neighborhood in Egypt,” a statement posted on the Hamas interior ministry website said.

However, the Egyptian al-Ahram daily said on its website on Tuesday that the two men might be Yemeni Salafis.

The two were shot on January 5 while trying to clamber into Israel from the northern Gaza Strip, the Israeli army said.

Palestinian medics who collected their bodies said the men had worn civilian clothes and carried no weapons. Their skin was darker than most Gazans’.

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That they were unknown locally was another rarity for the small Palestinian strip whose 1.5 million residents have close clan ties and whose militants are quick to celebrate their “martyrs.”

Medical officials said each of the dead men had a tattoo, something uncommon among devout Muslims.

Hamas said it had contacted Egyptian officials on January 6 and handed over computer files containing information on the autopsy report and fingerprints.

Israel and some Palestinians say al Qaeda-style radical Islamism has a presence in Gaza, helped by foreign volunteers who slip in through neighboring Egypt. The Hamas Islamists who rule the territory deny this.

“We stress that there is no al Qaeda presence in the Gaza Strip and the only militants (in the territory) belong to the known Palestinian factions,” the statement added.

The Egyptian Sinai has also seen a wave of African migrants who cross the border into Israel in search of asylum or jobs.

Though Gaza, under a punishing Israeli and Egyptian blockade, would seem an unattractive destination to such migrants, last month Hamas officials said they had returned to Egypt an African who had sneaked in through a smuggling tunnel.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi