JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli troops shot and killed three Palestinians along the border with the Gaza Strip in two separate incidents on Sunday, the Israeli military said.
The shootings follow a month of violence along the Israel-Gaza border, where Palestinians have been holding protests every Friday pressing for the right of return for refugees and their descendants to what is now Israel.
In the first incident on Sunday, two men “attempted to infiltrate” into Israel from the southern Gaza Strip, the military said in a statement. Soldiers shot and killed one of the men, and the other was wounded and held for questioning.
In the second incident, the army said, two militants who managed to cross the fence “hurled explosive devices” at Israeli soldiers, who shot them dead. There was no claim of responsibility from any militant group in Gaza.
Israel has refused any right of return for Palestinians who were expelled or fled and became refugees after the country declared independence in 1948, fearing that it would lose its Jewish majority.
Israeli forces have killed 42 Palestinians since protests began on March 30 and some 2,000 have been wounded by gunfire. No serious casualties have been reported on the Israeli side.
The Palestinians say Israel has used excessive force, and its use of live fire has drawn international criticism.
Israel says it is protecting its borders and takes such action only when protesters, some hurling stones and rolling burning tires, or trying to lay explosives, come too close to the border fence.
The Gaza Health Ministry said that three Palestinians were killed on Friday and 200 were wounded by Israeli gunfire, while a fourth died of his wounds on Saturday.
The Israeli military describes the protests as “riots,” and says that some protesters have tried to breach the frontier, and to damage the border fence by setting it on fire.
Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Hugh Lawson