GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israeli forces shot dead three Palestinians along the tense border with the Gaza Strip before dawn Thursday.
The Israeli military released a statement saying soldiers fired on the men after they were spotted planting an explosive device in a no-go zone along the border between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.
A spokesman for the armed wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine — a small group that only rarely carries out attacks — sent a text message to reporters identifying one of the men as a member of the group and said he had been killed "during a mission carried out by our military wing."
The message from the spokesman, Abu Khaled, did not claim the other two men as members.
Relatives who came to the hospital to receive the bodies for burial said they were fishermen.
A spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry, Adham Abu Salmiya, said the three were killed by Israeli fire near the Mediterranean shore in northern Gaza. They were in their 20s and were wearing civilian clothing, he said.
The Israeli military maintains a buffer zone along the border fence, where militants have planted bombs targeting Israeli forces in the past.
Gaza is controlled by the Islamic militant group Hamas. Bloodshed in the territory has decreased since Israel's military offensive in Gaza just over two years ago, but rocket fire and border clashes have continued.
Also Thursday, a group of Palestinians in Gaza sent plaques to the families of the Egyptian protesters killed in the unrest that forced Egypt's president from power last week.
The organizer of the campaign, Eyad Barhoum, said the plaques were a "message of honor and recognition" for the protesters, as well as a gesture of thanks to Egyptians for helping to smuggle goods into Gaza despite a border blockade by the Egyptian and Israelis governments.