JERUSALEM: The Israeli army said its troops shot dead four heavily armed Palestinians on the Gaza border early on Saturday, alleging one of them had managed to cross and throw a grenade at soldiers.

There have been frequent clashes along the Gaza border since the Palestinians began organising regular mass protests there in March 2018.

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

“The terrorists were equipped with AK-47 assault rifles, RPG grenade launchers and hand grenades,” an army statement said.

A spokeswoman said “the army opened fire after one of the terrorists scaled the barrier and hurled a grenade at the soldiers.” No casualties were reported in Israeli ranks.

Army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said the four Palestinians were all wearing “uniforms” — without elaborating — and were equipped with food and a medical kit as well as the rifles.

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

Conricus restated Israel’s longstanding position that it holds Gaza’s rulers Hamas responsible for all attacks emanating from the territory, since they control it.

A Hamas statement condemned Israel’s killing of the four Palestinians as a “crime”.

But the Islamist rulers of the Palestinian enclave made no claim of responsibility and did not say if the four were members of its armed wing.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2019