Israel’s army said troops shot dead two Palestinians while they were crossing the fence from the besieged Gaza Strip to Israel on Sunday afternoon. The killings raise death toll of Palestinians shot dead by Israeli soldiers since protests began on March 30 to at least 47. Ashraf al-Qudra, Gaza's health ministry spokesman, said the two men were killed after Israeli soldiers opened fire of Khan Younis city in the southern part of the besieged enclave.
A spokesperson for the Israeli military told Al Jazeera that Israeli troops had opened fire and shot dead three Palestinians, claiming that a group of four people were attempting to "infiltrate into Israel and damage [security] infrastructure". There was no comment regarding the condition, or whereabouts, of the fourth individual.
Earlier on Sunday, Gaza officials said that an Israeli drone bombed a post of the Islamic Hamas movement’s military wing Al-Qassam brigades in northern Gaza. No injuries were reported.
The killings come after a weekend of violence which saw Israeli troops fire live rounds and tear gas at Palestinians who thronged the Gaza-Israel frontier. The protesters came to the border terminal on Friday as part of a long-running protest, injuring about 1,100 people. Medics said around 82 people were shot and wounded with live fire, another 800 treated for gas inhalation and the rest for other injuries along the Gaza side of the 40-km border fence, where Palestinians set up tent encampments on March 30 for what they call “The Great March of Return.”
Facing international condemnation over its use of live ammunition in the protests, the Israeli army says it is protecting its border and takes such action only when protesters, some hurling firebombs and trying to plant explosives, approach too closely.
On Friday, troops faced “10,000 Palestinians participating in riots in six locations along the Gaza Strip border,” it said.
The rallies are part of a six-week protest that will culminate on May 15 to mark what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, or "catastrophe" - a reference to Israel's establishment in 1948 and when 750,000 Arabs were removed from Palestine. The Aljazeera puts the number of protesters wounded at more than 7,000 in total while there have been no Israeli casualties.