GAZA,(Reuters) – Israeli soldiers shot and wounded two Palestinians who approached Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the first time the Israeli military has opened fire in the area since a Nov. 26 truce.
Palestinian ambulance workers said the two men were unarmed. An Israeli military spokesman said they had behaved suspiciously and ignored warning shots to make them move away from an Israeli-built border fence.
The shootings occurred in separate locations, the spokesman said.
In the first incident, one Palestinian climbed a pole near the fence while another appeared to place an explosive charge on the ground, he said. “The Israeli force called on them to move back and fired in the air. They moved away,” the spokesman said.
“Later, several dozen people crowded near the fence, along with the same two men. One of them, using the crowd for cover, appeared to continue to place a charge. The force then fired at him, and according to our information, he was shot in the leg.”
In the second incident, near the Erez border crossing, a Palestinian crossed a perimeter fence, drawing shouted warnings from Israeli soldiers to turn back before he reached the main frontier barrier. “He didn’t. They fired in the air and he still didn’t stop. Then they fired at him, hitting him in the leg,” the spokesman said.
Local residents said the two men may have been collecting scrap metal in the area.
Since the ceasefire was declared, Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired several rockets into southern Israel, drawing no Israeli military response amid pledges by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to show restraint for the time being.
Groups behind the attacks said they considered recent Israeli raids against militants in the occupied West Bank, where there is no truce, as violations of the ceasefire.