Israeli troops kill Gaza fishermen 17Feb11 February 18, 2011

Aljazeera -  17 February 2011

Israeli soldiers have killed three Palestinian fishermen along the Gaza-Israeli border, Palestinian medics have said.

Gaza’s ministry of health said on Thursday that the men were killed overnight in the north of Gaza, near Beit Lahiya, while they were working with their nets on the shore.

The medics said that the victims were shot by Israeli forces before dawn.

But the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in a statement said the men were “militants”.

“Overnight, an IDF force identified a number of Palestinian militants approaching the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip, in an attempt to plant explosive devices.

“Thwarting the attempt, the force fired at the militants, hitting three of them,” the statement said.

Residents said they had heard gunfire in the area.

Adham Abu Selmiya, a spokesman for the Hamas-run emergency services, told AFP news agency that the men died after being hit by a tank shell and machine gun fire in an area called Al-Waha which lies close to both the shore and the northern border with Israel.

Abu Selmiya identified the men as Jihad Khalaf, 20, Talaat al-Awagh, 25 and Ashraf al-Kteifan, 29.

Increased tensions

Israel often carries out strikes against Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Increased tensions over the Gaza border have raised concerns about a new Israeli invasion of the coastal enclave like the devastating 22-day offensive which began at the end of December 2008.

Fourteen hundred Palestinians were killed in the operation, more than half of them civilians. Thirteen Israelis, 10 of them soldiers, also died.

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