Five hurt by Israel gunfire on Gaza border: medics

GAZA CITY: Five Palestinians were injured Tuesday by Israeli gunfire while scrounging for construction material in the rubble near Gaza's northern border with Israel, Palestinian medics said.The Israeli military said it had opened fire on three Palestinians approaching the border fence after they failed to respond to warning shots.Adham Abu Selmiya, a spokesman for the Hamas-run medical services in the Gaza Strip, said five Gazans in their early twenties were shot as they scavenged for building material in Beit Lahiya along the border with Israel.Abu Selmiya and ambulance workers, who took the Palestinians to the nearby Kamal Odwan hospital, said all five sustained light to moderate gunshot wounds to their legs.The Israeli military said it shot the men after firing into the air to try to keep them away from the border area.”The area adjacent to the security fence is a combat zone, used by terrorist organisations to execute attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers and to plan kidnapping attempts,” an Israel Defence Forces spokeswoman told AFP.”During this morning's incident, soldiers fired warning shots in the air a number of times in an attempt to drive the suspects away from the fence,” she added.”When the suspects failed to consent, the force fired towards their lower bodies and identified a hit.”The military said it was only aware that three Palestinians had been injured in the incident.Dozens of Palestinian men and teenagers crowd into the northern area of Gaza near the Erez crossing into Israel every day, sifting through the rubble of buildings destroyed during military incursions for construction material.An Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip bans the import of almost all building materials, forcing Gazans to recycle the remnants of destroyed structures to rebuild homes, schools and businesses.The Israeli blockade was imposed after the 2006 kidnap of soldier Gilad Shalit by Gaza militants. It was tightened a year later when Hamas seized power in the territory, ousting its more moderate Palestinian rivals from Fatah.The restrictions were eased in July this year, following mounting international pressure after nine Turkish activists were killed in a May 31 commando raid on a flotilla of aid ships trying to breach the blockade. AGENCIES