GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli soldiers shot and injured two Palestinians on Monday as they were collecting stones from fields in the northern Gaza Strip, a medical official said.
Gaza Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said two men were taken to Kamal Idwan hospital after being shot by Israeli troops near the Erez crossing.
Israeli soldiers stationed at monitoring posts by the crossing opened fire at the men as they collected stones in nearby fields.
Both men were moderately injured.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said that a few Palestinians entered a prohibited area and were acting "suspiciously and meddling with the ground."
"Soldiers fired warning shots and then fired at their lower extremities and one hit was confirmed," she added.
Many Gazans in the besieged coastal enclave collect small stones in order to make gravel for concrete due to a shortage caused by Israel's blockade.
Israeli forces frequently shoot at farmers and other civilians inside the Gaza Strip if they approach large swathes of land near the border that the Israeli military has deemed off-limits to Palestinians.
The "security buffer zone" extends between 500 meters and 1500 meters into the Strip, effectively turning local farms into no-go zones.
According to UNOCHA, 17 percent of Gaza's total land area and 35 percent of its agricultural land were within the buffer zone as of 2010, directly affecting the lives and livelihoods of more than 100,000 Gazans.