Six Palestinians who were part of a large group of rioters that approached the Gaza border with Israel were shot and killed by IDF soldiers on Friday, Palestinian medical sources said.
Some 200 Palestinians approached the Gaza - Israeli border fence from the Strip, burning tires and throwing rocks. They ignored calls by soldiers to stop, entering a 100-meter perimeter area that is a closed military zone, and getting to within 50 meters of the fence, an army spokeswoman said.
Soldiers first fired in the air to stop their advance. The rioters did not stop, however, and the IDF then fired at the legs of rioters, striking five of them, she added.
The demonstration was called in solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem and followed a spate of attacks by Palestinians against Israelis and reprisals by Jews against Arabs.
An IDF spokeswoman said around 200 Palestinians massed at the border fence in northern Gaza, throwing rocks and rolling burning tires toward troops stationed on the other side.
The soldiers "fired at the main instigators in order to halt their advance and disperse the riot," she said, adding that she knew of five Palestinians who were shot.
Hospital officials put the death toll at six, with at least 14 others wounded. Witnesses said they had been fired at by Israeli snipers in guard posts along the border fence, about 400 meters away from where the Palestinians were protesting.
There is an Israel-imposed security zone that runs about 300 meters from the border into Gaza. Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups have lookout towers and guard posts in place just back from the buffer zone.
Further south, Palestinian rioters attempted to burst through the fence at Erez Crossing. Soldiers fired in the air, dispersing the crowd.
Last week, the IDF appointed a new OC Southern Command, who warned that Israel faces "many" security challenges on its southern borders.
Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir replaced Maj.-Gen. Sami Turgerman during a ceremony at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Turgerman has served in his role for the past two-and-a-half years, and was a key figure in Israel's 50-day conflict with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza in the summer of 2014.
Maj.-Gen. Zamir said during the ceremony that the "challenges as I understand them from the past, and which I studied recently, are many on all fronts - the Gaza Strip, Sinai, and the Arava. The reality is dynamic and explosive, as recent days prove, particularly in east Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria."
Also last week, the Defense Ministry announced the completion of a project to surround 12 southern communities near the Gazan border with sensor-based electronic security fences.
The announcement comes as Hamas continues to build tunnels in Gaza for the purpose of targeting the South with cross-border raids in any future conflict.
The Ministry's Acquisitions Administration said the project cost 30 million shekels, and included the construction of tens of kilometers of electronic fences, advanced technological security sites, and maintenance of the fences for the next three years.
The villages and kibbutz communities of Sufa, Holot, Nir Itzhak, Nirim, Nir Oz, Ein Hashlosha, Kissufim, Alumim, Sa'ad Kfar Aza,
Miflasim, and Nir Am all received new protective fences.
Work to build fences around Carmia and Yad Mordechai will be complete in the coming months, the Defense Ministry said.
"The smart fence will form a physical obstacle in case of an attempted infiltration into a community, and will send a warning to a regional council control room, and to the IDF, every time the fence detects contact," the Ministry said in a statement.
Last Monday, the Israel Air Force struck a Hamas target in northern Gaza in retaliation for a Gazan rocket attack onsouthern Israel hours earlier.
Palestinian terrorists fired two rockets at Israel on Sunday night; one exploded in an open area in Eshkol, causing no injuries or damage, and the second failed to cross into Israel, though it triggered warning sirens.
There were no injuries or damage.
In recent weeks, the Israel Air Forces struck targets in the Gaza Strip after a number of rockets were launched at western Negev towns.
The Sheikh Omar Hadid Brigade, a Salafist organization affiliated with Islamic State, claimed credit for the attacks.
The Omar Brigade – named after a key figure who helped Abu Musab al-Zarqawi set up and run al-Qaida in Iraq a decade ago – has attempted to challenge Hamas’s rule in the Strip.
It is responsible for a growing number of rocket attacks from Gaza. It hopes to spark a new war with Israel that will weaken Hamas and enable it to fill the resulting power vacuum.
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