One Palestinian has been killed and at least 10 others have been wounded after Israeli soldiers, stationed at the border line between the Gaza Strip and Israel, opened fire on them, medical sources say.
Health officials said Anwar Qdeih was hit in the head by Israeli gunfire on Friday after he approached the fence that runs between the town of Khan Younis and Israel – an area that Israel has long declared a no-go zone for Palestinians.
“Anwar was trying to put a Hamas flag on the fence,” his relative Omar Qdeih, who was at the scene, said.
“The army fired three times into the air … then they shot him in the head,” he told Reuters news agency.
The incident happened two days after a truce was agreed between Israel and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, after eight days of cross-border fighting that killed 163 Palestinians and six Israelis.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said the incident marked a clear violation by Israeli forces of the terms of the truce.
Hamas “will raise this violation with Egyptian mediators to make sure that it does not happen again”, he said.
Most of those approaching the fence were young men, the Associated Press news agency reported, but the crowds also included farmers hoping they could check on their farm lands in the buffer zone.
“The occupation forces opened fire on a group of farmers,” Adham Abu Selmiya, Gaza emergency service spokesman, said.
Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston, reporting from Gaza City, said the farmers may have been confused about the current terms of access to the 300-metre wide buffer zone as Wednesday’s truce stipulates easing of travel restrictions.
They may have thought that they can now travel there, she said, adding that the shootings would “send a message” to Palestinians that the buffer zone is still a no-go area.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers fired warning shots into the air to push back about 300 Palestinians who had gathered at different locations along the fence and who were attempting to breach the border.
“After the rioters did not comply, the soldiers responded by firing toward the legs of the rioters,” she said.
The Israeli army is able to shoot at people in the buffer zone without entering the area, our correspondent said.
After the shooting, Hamas security officials, coming closer to the Israeli border fence than ever before, escorted Palestinians away from the site, witnesses said.
A Palestinian security source confirmed the move to Reuters, saying “the instruction is not to allow people to approach the border fence”.
Another Palestinian was wounded by Israeli gunfire from the border on Thursday, according to health officials, when the Israeli military said 200 Palestinian “rioters” approached the fence.
Israel’s army constantly patrols the border area and says its forces have come under increasing attack this year, with fighters planting explosive devices and firing an anti-tank missile on at least one occasion.
Both Israelis and Palestinians agreed to stop their hostilities under Wednesday’s ceasefire agreement.
However, the brief document said details on access to the tense border zone would be worked out in the days ahead.
Forty minutes after the ceasefire was announced, Nader Abumaghasib, a 15-year-old boy, was killed by an unmanned drone.
(Al Jazeera And Agencies)