In the Gaza strip renewed clashes, more than a thousand victims

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Soldiers fired tank shells and machine guns at the men, according to a Palestinian medic, Izzat Shatat.

More than 7,000 Palestinians have been wounded in total. Hamas acknowledged that five of those killed on the first Friday of protests in March were its members, but has since refrained for such admissions. The move is seen by Palestinians as a USA breach of long-standing promises to help negotiate a fair arrangement for the contested city.

The rallies are part of a six-week protest that will culminate on May 15 to mark what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, or "catastrophe" - a reference to Israel's establishment in 1948 and when 750,000 Arabs were removed from Palestine.

Palestinians have been holding mass weekly marches in recent weeks near the border with Israel, raising tensions and leading to deadly clashes with IDF forces.

Facing global censure over its use of live fire in the protests, Israel says it is protecting its border and takes such action only when protesters, some hurling fire-bombs and trying to plant explosives, come too close. Although some protesters have targeted Israeli troops with stones and set tires on fire, trying to approach the fence in the thick smoke, the protests have been largely peaceful.

Israel says that it is defending its sovereign border, including nearby communities, and that its troops target only instigators.

Of those, three were shot dead on Sunday.

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The IDF denied involvement in the explosion. Abbas also cut off salaries to thousands of Gaza's civil servants and forced many others into early retirement.

"The rioters are damaging the pipes that carry fuel and gas from Israel into the Gaza Strip", the army said in a statement.

According to an army spokesman, two of the three "infiltrators" had been killed.

A Palestinian source told Haaretz that all signs pointed to an explosion resulting from the handling of explosives inside a building and that there were signs that the casualties were operatives in the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing.

Gaza media reported the explosion was a "work accident", meaning the militants were killed when explosives they were dealing with went off.

"The strike was in response to an incident that took place yesterday in which terrorists launched burning incendiaries in an attempt to light fires in Israeli territory", the Israeli spokeswoman said. It did not elaborate or provide any evidence.