Palestinian sources reported Wednesday evening that two Palestinians police officers and another Palestinian were killed and two others were wounded after an Israel Defense Force shell hit a Palestinian National Security post in the northern Gaza Strip, near the town of Beit Lahiya.
IDF officials, however, said that at least two of the casualties are members of a group attempting to carry out a terror attack in Israel. The army denied hitting a Palestinian post.
According to the reports, IDF soldiers began shelling the area near the border fence after spotting two suspicious figures approaching the place. The post was hit by the fire and two police officers, 23-year-old Khader Kassem and another officer, were killed. Two other Palestinians were wounded.
The body of a third Palestinian, apparently one of the suspicious figures hit by the IDF, was later located near the border fence. Palestinians are patrolling the area following reports on another Palestinian hurt by the IDF.
Officials at Gaza's Shifa Hospital reported that the wounded officers sustained light and moderate injuries.
IDF officials said that the terrorists' group was spotted with certainty some 100 meters (328 feet) from the border fence, where the forces directed their fire. Army officials added that Palestinian police officers are not meant to be in that area.
40 terrorists killed on border fence since withdrawal
An initial inquiry revealed that of the terrorist group's members was killed. IDF officials said they regret the killing of Palestinian officers, but wondered why the officers, if they were indeed in the area, did not prevent the terrorists from approaching the border fence.
The officials added that the group of terrorists was "framed" with certainty. In other words, the soldiers were certain that these were not innocent people before opening fire.
The entire incident took place opposite Kibbutz Nahal Oz. The troops feared that if the group crosses the fence it would reach the community.
Such incidents, in which terrorists approach the border fence, are usually aimed at placing an explosive device or trying to infiltrate Israel in order to carry out a terror attack.
In all similar incidents which occurred since the IDF's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in September 2005, groups of terrorists failed to cross the fence and in many cases were hit by Israeli fire.
After the disengagement, the IDF boosted its forces around the Gaza Strip using improved means, including observations and forces prepared to detect any unusual incident. Some 40 terrorists have been killed on the border fence so far, some of them while trying to place explosive devices and others while attempting to infiltrate Israel.
Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report