Gaza – Ma’an – Three Gaza workers collecting stone aggregates from rubble near the Erez crossing were hit and injured by Israeli fire in two separate incidents shortly after 9a.m. on Saturday, medics told Ma'an.
Officials said the shots were fired from watch towers near the border crossing in the northern Strip, with the number injured by Israeli fire for the day rising to 13 following a series of air strikes and artillery fire that reportedly targeted "terrorist infrastructure."
Director of ambulance and emergency services for Gaza Strip hospitals Muawiya Hassanein said two workers collecting in the same area were targeted, in addition to a solitary worker collecting aggregates to be recycled into cement in a Gaza City plant, or used for construction.
Hassanein identified the first injured workers as 16-year-old Mahdi Hammadin, who was evacuated to the Beit Hanoun Hospital with gunshot wounds, while 25-year-old Muhammad Shalabi was evacuated to the Kamal Udwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya.
A third man was shot not long after, identified by coordinator of the Gaza Strip police medical services Adham Abu Silmiyya as 21-year-old Muhammad Hasan Sa’dallah. The officials said Sa’dallah was also collecting aggregates when he was shot.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers fired at a group of men after patrols "identified a group approaching the security fence," classified by Israeli officials as a "combat zone," which includes 6.25 percent of Gaza land and an estimated 20 percent of arable lands.
She said soldiers fired warning shots into the air in an attempt to drive away the men from the area, then fired toward their lower bodies, at which point she said two hits were identified. Only one group of individuals was targeted, she added.
As Israel's siege on Gaza continues, construction materials remain prohibited for commercial and personal use. Materials like aggregates and cement have been transported into Gaza only for construction projects under the UN and other international aid agencies, even as hundreds of homes remain in ruins a year and a half after Israel's last war on Gaza.
According to the UN, at least 6,000 homes in Gaza were either destroyed or severely damaged.