GAZA (Reuters) – The Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group said four of its members died in an apparent accidental explosion in the Gaza Strip on Saturday.
The group said in a statement that it was "in mourning for its combatants were martyred during the preparations"
It usually uses those terms to refer to casualties caused by the accidental detonation of weapons or explosives used in attacks against Israel.
The Gaza Ministry of Health confirmed four deaths in the incident. Doctors at the scene in the Rafah area said the explosion was caused by Israel. But an Israeli military spokesman said the army was not involved.
"Contrary to the reports circulating today, I can tell you that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) are not aware of any IDF fire in the Rafah area," the spokesman said. .
Violence has escalated in the Gaza Strip since March 30, when Palestinians began protests in the border area with Israel.
Israeli troops have shot and killed 31 Palestinians in Gaza and injured hundreds since the protests began, drawing international lethal tactics.
The border area remained largely silent on Saturday.
Protesters have set up tents near the border as a protest called "The Great Return March," evoking an old call for refugees to recover their ancestral homes in what is now Israel – moved into their third week .
Israel has declared a no-go zone near the Gaza border fence.
Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005. The Palestinian pavilion is governed by the Islamist movement Hamas, designated by Israel and the West as a terrorist group.
Citing security concerns, Israel maintains a naval blockade of the coastal territory, maintaining strict restrictions on the movement of Palestinians and goods across the border.
Egypt, fighting an Islamist insurgency in neighboring Sinai, keeps its border with Gaza largely closed.
(Report by Nidal al-Mughrabi, written by Maayan Lubell, edited by Angus MacSwan)