Israel says it shot Gazans placing bomb along border; 1 dead

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military said Sunday it shot two Palestinian militants trying to place an explosive device along the border with Gaza — one of whom was killed according to a Palestinian official.

Israel blames the Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, for ongoing fire emanating from the Gaza Strip, including a spate of explosive balloons launched from Gaza that have damaged Israeli properties.

The Israeli military said it targeted a squad belonging to the Islamic Jihad group that previously placed explosives along the border aimed at harming Israeli troops. Islamic Jihad identified the dead as one of its fighters.

Amateur video showed dozens of Palestinians later hurling stones at an Israeli bulldozer as it was lifting up an apparently lifeless body from the scene. The military said it was removing the body in a way that prevented further danger to those around.

However, Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for the Hamas militant group, accused the Israeli military of abusing the corpse, saying that it “bears the consequences of the ugly crime.”

Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett rejected the criticism, noting that Hamas has been holding the bodies of two Israeli soldiers since they were killed in the 2014 Gaza war.

“I back the military, which killed the terrorists and collected the body,” he said. “That’s what should be done and that is what was done.”

The incident comes amid a relative lull along the security fence separating Israel from Gaza. Last week, Israel announced it would provide hundreds of additional work permits for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in a new step aimed at solidifying an informal cease-fire with the Hamas.

Tens of thousands of Gazans used to work in Israel. But Israel virtually sealed the border when it joined Egypt in imposing a crippling blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. The blockade, along with three wars between Hamas and Israel, has devastated the economy in Gaza, where unemployment is over 50%.

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