By Middle East Affairs
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group said Saturday four of its members were killed in an apparent accidental blast in the Gaza Strip, Reuters reports.
In a statement, the group said it was “mourning its fighters who were martyred during preparations.”
Reuters said the Islamic Jihad usually uses that language when weapons or explosives meant for attacks on Israel are accidentally detonated.
The Gaza Health Ministry confirmed that the four men were killed near a refugee camp east of the Rafah-Gaza Strip.
Medics at the scene had originally said an Israeli tank targeted a group of civilians on motorcycles in front of the Al-Muabq gate with an explosion.
However, Israel Defense Forces spokesman Avichay Adraee tweeted Saturday that Israel was not responsible for the attack.
The victims were Hisham Abed Elal; Elias Alqatroos; Ayed Alhamaydeh; and Mohammed Alqerinawi
Reuters said residents at the hospital morgue had identified the men as members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group.
Witnesses had originally believed the men were attacked while delivering tires to the Gaza-Israel borders where protesters are burning tires as part of the Palestinians’ six-week long “Great March of Return” for the right to reclaim their homeland.
Since the protests began March 30, Israeli troops posted along the border have killed 32 protesters by gunfire.
Israel has maintained that most of the protesters shot at the border were actually militants and that armed group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, is using the protests as a decoy for potential attacks against Israel and kidnappings of its troops.
Hamas denies the accusation and says it doesn’t want violence with Israel.
Israel said Hamas carried out a bomb attack Wednesday on a military vehicle on the Gaza border, and while there were no casualties, Israel retaliated with an air strike. Gunmen shot at the aircraft, Reuters said, and the Israeli military fired back in response, killing one Hamas militant.