Israel military: Four Palestinian militants killed on Gaza border

Israeli soldiers stand guard during a house-to-house search operation in the West Bank village of Beit Fajjar near Bethlehem

Israeli soldiers stand guard during a house-to-house search operation in the West Bank village of Beit Fajjar near Bethlehem

Israeli soldiers shot dead four Palestinian militants on Saturday on the border to the Gaza Strip after attemping to cross the border fence while heavily armed, the Israeli military said. Tensions along the border are high with frequent fatalities.

But Saturday's exchange was unusual due to the weaponry the Israeli army said was involved on the Palestinian side.

Hamas has distanced itself from the Saturday's botched attempt to infiltrate into Israel from the Gaza Strip by arguing that the four terrorists who were killed by the IDF had acted independently.

Conricus said the four were dressed in military uniforms and carried rifles, grenades, wire cutters and rocket propelled grenades.

"At this stage, we are still trying to determine why they had this medical kit with them", he told reporters.

No organization in Gaza, including Hamas, has yet to take responsibility or confirm the identities of those killed.

Palestinian sources said the four men all came from the village of Wadi al-Salqa, close to the Israeli border.

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Hamas has staged weekly protests along the Israel-Gaza frontier since March 2018 against the strip's dire conditions following 12 years of Israeli-Egyptian blockade.

The protests have declined in intensity in recent months following a truce brokered by United Nations officials and Egypt. Hamas did not endorse Abu Salah as one of its "martyrs" and said that the attack was "personally motivated".

In a post on Twitter, the Israel Defense Forces said the men were armed with assault rifles, anti-tank missiles and hand grenades, one of which was hurled at their troops.

The violence comes ahead of Israeli general elections on September 17, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under pressure to show a firm hand in dealing with Palestinian militants.

Earlier, Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Israel holds Gaza's ruling Hamas authorities "responsible and accountable for any acts of violence emanating from the Gaza Strip", regardless of whether Hamas ordered the attack.

The militant group canceled this Friday's protest because of the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Israel is still conducting a manhunt in the occupied West Bank for the killers of an off-duty soldier whose body was found with multiple stab wounds on Thursday just 50 metres (yards) from the gates of the settlement where he lived.

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