Four dead as Gaza conflict continues
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group said four of its members were killed in an apparent accidental blast in the Gaza Strip yesterday.
It was “mourning its fighters who were martyred during preparations”, it said in a statement. It usually employs those terms to refer to casualties caused by the accidental detonation of weapons or explosives used in attacks against Israel.
The Gaza health ministry confirmed four fatalities. Medics at the scene in the Rafah area said the explosion was caused by Israel. An Israeli military spokesman said the army was not involved.
Violence has flared in the Gaza Strip since March 30, when Palestinians began protests along the border area with Israel. Israeli troops have shot dead 31 Gaza Palestinians and wounded hundreds since the protests began, drawing international criticism of their lethal tactics.
The border area remained largely quiet yesterday. Tented camps have been set up near the frontier as part of a protest dubbed “The Great March of Return” – a long-time call for refugees to regain ancestral homes in what is now Israel. The protest is in its third week.
Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005. The Palestinian enclave is ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement, designated by Israel and the West as a terrorist group.
Citing security concerns, Israel maintains a naval blockade of the coastal territory, keeping tight restrictions on the movement of Palestinians and goods across the frontier.
Egypt, battling an Islamist insurgency in neighbouring Sinai, keeps its border with Gaza largely closed.