Two men have been confirmed dead, with two more injured, after Israeli planes and tanks opened fire upon them as they approached the ‘kill zone’ established by the Israeli military along the border surrounding the Gaza strip. The strike occurred just before noon, east of the Northern town of Beit Hanoun. The deceased have been confirmed as Mohammed Abu Awda, aged 23, and Ahmad Za’aneen, 17. Za’aneed was initially in critical condition, but soon succumbed to his wounds and was pronounced dead. They were part of a group approaching the border with a cargo cart, an act the watching army considered suspicious; they were thirty metres from the fence when the armoured corps of the Israeli Army, along with an Israeli fighter-jet, opened fire upon then.

An Israeli army spokesperson stated that the hits were confirmed after they spotted the ‘terrorist squad’ operating near the border, and that the cart exploded during the strike, indicating that the men were planning on planting explosives. The spokesperson added that ‘The [Israeli military] will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli civilians or Israeli Defense Force soldiers, and will operate against anyone who uses terror against the State of Israel.’

Mohammed was killed instantly at the scene, with conflicting reports suggesting that either two or three members of the group were also injured, with Ahmad dying shortly after. Medical sources claimed that initially, due to the heavy firing, the ambulances were delayed in reaching the scene, and health officials claim one of the ambulances sustained damage.

According to the Israeli army spokesperson, the border has been relatively quieter in recent weeks than previously – the spokesperson claimed that the army carried out thirty cross-border strikes in 2011 — although Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip say the number of Israeli cross-border attacks is much higher than that. According to the army spokesperson, Palestinian fighters fired eighty long-range Grad-model rockets over the year, and six hundred homemade shells.

Three Israelis were killed in 2011 from Palestinian cross-border shells, while 94 Palestinians, and two foreign citizens, were killed by Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip in the same time period (statistics from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem).