September 18, 2018 / 4:39 AM / 2 months ago

Israel says it fired at Palestinians tampering with Gaza fence; two killed

GAZA (Reuters) - Two men found dead near the site of an Israeli missile strike at the coastal strip’s border with Israel were identified as Palestinian cousins, family members said on Tuesday.

Pictures of 24-year-old Palestinian Mohammad al-Khatib are seen in Beit Rima village in the occupied West Bank, September 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

The Israeli military said it had attacked a group suspected of tampering with the border fence.

Family members identified Najy Jamil Abu Assi, 18, and Ala Ziad Abu Assi, 21, after seeing their pictures on social media. They were residents of the village of Zanna east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

Shortly before midnight on Monday the Israeli military said one of its aircraft had fired at a group of suspected militants who had “suspiciously approached” the border fence and placed an object next to it.

Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but maintains tight control of its land and sea borders.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled for several years and Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, where the Palestinians hope to establish an independent state, have expanded.

Israeli forces say that in recent days they have dismantled at least two bombs planted near the border fence, which has been the scene of weekly Palestinian demonstrations since March 30.

At least 179 Palestinians have been killed in the protests, according to medical officials in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army says it is defending its border against rioting protesters who have sought to breach the fence and enter Israel.

In a separate incident in Beit Rima village in the occupied West Bank, a Palestinian family said one of its members died while being arrested by Israeli soldiers.

The family of 24-year-old Mohammad al-Khatib said they believed he was beaten by the soldiers during a dawn raid on his home.

The Israeli military said its initial inquiry showed the troops used no violence and that it had launched an investigation.

Bashir al-Khatib, the man’s brother, said soldiers entered the house early on Tuesday morning and went to Khatib’s room.

The family told Reuters they heard shouting before seeing soldiers carrying an unconscious Khatib from the house. They were later told he was dead.

The Israeli military said Khatib was being sought for suspected security offences.

Slideshow (6 Images)

“During the arrest, he lost consciousness and was treated at the scene by the forces there. He was evacuated to an Israeli hospital for further treatment,” a military spokeswoman said.

“Initial investigation has shown he was arrested with no resistance (from him) or violence (by the soldiers).”

Vered Kvitel, a spokeswoman for Beilinson hospital, said that doctors had tried unsuccessfully to revive Khatib. “There were no bruises visible on his body,” she said.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Dan Williams, Ali Sawafta and Maayan Lubell; Editing by Paul Tait and Ed Osmond

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