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Israeli Troops Fire on Gaza Civilians; 4 Killed, 25 Wounded

Israeli tank and machine gun fire killed 4 young Palestinian civilians on Saturday. (Photo: IDF)

Israeli troops fired on Palestinian civilians in the crowded Gaza strip on Saturday, killing four young funeral mourners and wounding at least 25 other people, including some children.

The Associated Press reports that the deadly incident occurred after Palestinian resistance fighters fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli jeep patrolling Israel’s border with Gaza. Four Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops were wounded in the attack, one of them seriously.

Israeli troops then returned tank and machine gun fire into a residential area, killing four young men identified by the New York Times as Ahmed Mustafa Harara, age 17; his cousin Muhammad Osama Harara, also 17; Mattar Abu Alatta, 19; and Ahmed Kamil Dardasawi, 20. The four young men were among many who were gathered in a funeral tent who rushed to help after the first Israel shell struck. They were killed, and many more wounded, when a second round was fired.

The Gaza Health Ministry also reported that Israeli machine gun fire wounded six Palestinians near Khan Younis around the same time as the four young men were killed. Two of the six wounded were children. Last Thursday, 12-year-old Abu Ahmed Dagah, also of Khan Younis, was shot and killed by Israeli troops while he was playing soccer near the site of a skirmish between the IDF and Palestinian resistance fighters from the Popular Resistance Committee.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a leftist militant group resisting the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine, claimed responsibility for firing the anti-tank missile, although it is not clear whether the group actually carried out the attack.

The IDF said it returned fire at a hill on the Gaza side of the border from which militants were monitoring Israeli forces.

Palestinian fighters responded to the Israeli killings by firing a salvo of rockets and mortar shells indiscriminately into southern Israel. One of the militants was then killed in an Israeli air strike.

Both sides have vowed retaliation.

Tensions have risen significantly along the Israel-Gaza border in recent weeks as Israeli forces have responded to increasing Palestinian rocket attacks with air strikes and cross-border incursions. Although the IDF unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza strip, home to 1.6 million people, in 2005, Israel still controls most access to the enclave and maintains a severe economic embargo. Militants, mostly from the Islamic resistance group Hamas, have fired thousands of rockets into Israel. Such attacks resulted in the devastating 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead invasion of Gaza, in which more than 900 Gazan civilians, including 429 women and children, were killed.

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