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  • Mourners carry the body of Palestinian Youssef Abu Azra during his funeral in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

    Mourners carry the body of Palestinian Youssef Abu Azra during his funeral in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. | Photo: Reuters

Three Palestinians were attacked when they approached the border fence in what locals said could have been an attempt to enter Israel for work.

Hundreds of Palestinians joined the funeral of 15-year-old Yousif Shaaban Abu Athra in Rafah after he was killed by Israeli artillery fire, which wounded two others, near the border between Gaza and Israel.

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The Ministry of Education in Gaza released a statement condemning “the Israeli crime” of killing the teen, who was a 10th-grade student at a local school in Rafah, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported Wednesday.

The ministry demanded that the international community and human rights groups “stand in the face of Israeli aggression,” and stressed “the necessity of prosecuting the Israeli occupation for its crimes that violate all international laws and regulations.”

The Israeli military claimed that its forces "detected three suspects near the security fence and fired towards them, identifying one hit" in the pre-dawn incident.

However, no Palestinian group claimed the individuals attacked as members — a sign, local residents told Reuters — that the three may have been trying to cross into Israel under the cover of darkness to seek work.

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Abu Athra became the fourth Palestinian killed in Gaza by Israeli attacks so far this year, according to Ma’an. In 2016, Israeli forces killed eight Palestinians in the blockaded enclave, among them were two Palestinian children, aged nine and six killed by an Israeli airstrike.

Israel accuses Hamas, which controls Gaza, of firing rockets at Israel despite the fact that several extremists groups have claimed responsibility for such attacks, saying they wanted to ignite a conflict with Israel.

Hamas has cracked down on those groups, which are connected to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. Some suggest that Israel could be seeking a fourth war against Gaza in a confrontation with Hamas, which won elections in 2006 but was never allowed to govern leading it to eventually take over the enclave while Israel imposed a full blockade on the strip.

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