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Palestinian boys sit on a fence as they watch a Hamas rally in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip January 7, 2016. The rally, organized by Hamas movement, was held to honor the families of dead Hamas militants, who Hamas's armed wing said participated in imprisoning Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, organizers said. Shalt was abducted by militants in a cross-border raid in 2006, and was released in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem - RTX21FR7

3 Gaza boys killed in Israel airstrike on tinderbox border

Three Palestinian boys were killed in an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza Strip frontier on Sunday, medical officials in the Hamas-run enclave said, while Israel said it had hit suspected militants trying to blow up part of a border fence, Reuters reports.

The Gaza Health Ministry said two of the dead were aged 13 and one aged 14.

Gaza medics have tallied more than 216 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces at the frontier during almost seven months of Palestinian protests against Israel’s blockade of the territory and in support of a right for Palestinian refugees to return to lands in Israel. One Israeli soldier has been killed by a sniper.

Israel says its lethal response is necessary to prevent armed infiltration from Gaza. The violence has occasionally escalated into shelling exchanges that Israel has warned could trigger a war, while Egypt and the United Nations have repeatedly mediated truces.

Read: Israel kills 5 protesters in Gaza, wounds 232 others

In Sunday’s incident, an Israeli aircraft struck “three terrorists adjacent to the fence who were trying to sabotage it and were apparently planting a bomb,” the Israeli military said in a statement.

Four Palestinians were killed at the border on Friday, and a Gaza militant group responded by firing a volley of missiles into Israel, prompting scores of Israeli retaliatory air strikes on Saturday, although nobody was killed.

Two million Palestinians live in Gaza, most of them stateless descendants of people who fled or were driven from homes in Israel at its founding in 1948.

The narrow seaside territory has been ruled by Hamas, an Islamist group, since 2007, during which time it has fought three wars against Israel.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade for security reasons, which the World Bank says have brought the territory to a state of economic collapse, nearly entirely dependent on international aid and without adequate electricity, health care or clean water.

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