Israeli forces killed a Palestinian Hamas member after he crossed the Gaza fence overnight and shot and wounded three soldiers, the Israeli military said.
During the past two years, similar incidents along the frontier have often escalated into large-scale confrontations between Israel and the Hamas, which rules Gaza.
However, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) appeared to play down the event, stating the man was acting alone and not on orders from the militant group.
“We know that he is a Hamas member, but our current assumption is, and this doesn’t look likely to change, is that he was not sent on an attack mission,” said army spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus. “He did this attempting attack on his own.”
The IDF spotted the man as he approached the fence at around 2am on Thursday morning. After crossing, soldiers approached him and he opened fire with assault rifle, lightly wounding two combat soldiers and moderately wounding an officer, Conricus said.
During an ensuing firefight, he threw at least one grenade but was shot dead. Israeli media reported he was the brother of a man killed by IDF forces in May. Hamas has not commented on the reports.
Israel’s lethal response to a protest movement that erupted along the Gaza frontier in March 2018 as well as multiple bouts of clashes between Israel and Hamas has led to repeated fears of a fourth war breaking out between the two sides.
In May last year, a couple of days after Israel killed 60 Palestinian protesters, machine gun fire from inside the enclave hit a building in Israel, leading to Israeli air raids. At the end of that month, Israel and Hamas traded their heaviest attacks since the 2014 war after more bloodshed at the frontier. Clashes have continued this year.
The UN said 209 Palestinians have been killed during the protests, and 104 killed in other circumstances, including by Israeli bombardment responding to rocket fire into Israel. Seven Israelis have been killed during the same period.
Demonstrations have significantly reduced in size after a truce brokered this summer by UN officials and Egypt.