Gaza-based Islamic Jihad Drops Claim of Israeli Drone Strike

Incident comes after a week of rocket fire targeting Israel's south and Israeli retaliations on Hamas targets

Palestinians inspect the damaged remains of a motorcycle, that was reportedly hit by an Israeli strike according to the Palestinian health ministry spokesman, in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza strip on December 12, 2017
AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS

The Islamic Jihad militant group in Gaza now says the blast that killed two of its members was an accident.

The group earlier Tuesday accused Israel of killing the men in an airstrike. But it has issued a new statement saying the men had mishandled explosives.

Ealier reports from Gaza's Hamas-controlled Health Ministry said Tuesday that two Palestinians were killed in what was described as an assassination by an Israeli military drone. Palestinians say the two killed were members of the Al-Quds Brigade, the military wing of Islamic Jihad. 

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The Israeli army denied any role in the incident and said that contrary to the Palestinian report, the military had not carried out any such drone strike in Gaza. Israeli army officials said that the explosion was believed to have been the result of a "work accident," the term generally used when explosives intended to be used by militants against Israel explode prematurely.

The assumption is that the powerful explosion involved plans to either fire into Israel or to transport weaponry.

Tensions along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip flared up Monday, capping a week of rocket fire at Israel by terror groups and responses in turn from the army.

Palestinian medical sources said the two that are reported dead were riding on a motorcycle near Beit Lahia. The Islamic Jihad's armed wing confirmed two of its operatives were killed.

Violent clashes broke out Tuesday for the sixth consecutive day, with Palestinians reporting four being wounded in clashes along the border with Gaza. According to medical sources, one person was seriously wounded after being shot in the head.

The Israeli military said late Monday it struck Hamas positions in the northern strip overnight in retaliation for a rocket fired at the southern city of Ashkelon, which Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system shot down.

Rocket sirens sounded in southern Israeli communities near the border with the Gaza Strip and residents in the southern Israeli cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod reported hearing explosions.

In a similar incident earlier Monday evening, Israel struck Hamas outposts in southern Gaza in retaliation for a rocket fired from the Strip. No injuries were immediately reported and the siren that warns of incoming rockets did not sound. A local regional council said that the sirens did not go off because there was no threat to residents.