Six Hamas Men Killed in Gaza Explosion; Militant Group Blames Israel

One report says blast occurred during attempt to defuse missile ■ Hamas military wing: 'heinous crime committed against our fighters'

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Hamas' military wing blamed Israel on Saturday for killing six of its men in an explosion in the central Gaza Strip. The Israeli military denied any involvement in the blast.

Six people were killed and three others were wounded in the explosion, the Hamas-run Health Ministry said. The blast took place in Deir al-Balah, a city located in the central Gaza Strip. The cause of the blast was not immediately clear.

The wounded and the bodies of the dead were brought to a hospital. The Health Ministry identified the dead as Taher Shahin, 29, Wissam Abu Mahrouk, 37, Musa Salman, 30, Mahmoud al-Ustaz, 34, Mahmoud al-Touashi, 27 and Mahmoud al-Qishawi, 27.

A Palestinian source told Haaretz that all signs pointed to an explosion resulting from the handling of explosives inside a building and that there were signs that the casualties were operatives in Hamas' military wing.

One report said that the blast occurred during an attempt to defuse a missile or dud that failed to explode during 2014's Operation Protective Edge.

Hamas' military wing however blamed Israel in a statement and said a "heinous crime has been committed against our fighters."

The Israeli military denied involvement in the explosion. "The IDF (Israel Defense Force) is not involved in this incident in any way," an Israeli military spokesman said, as reported by Reuters.

On Friday, 70 Palestinians were by live Israeli fire during the sixth consecutive Friday of protests along the Gaza border fence, the Health Ministry in Gaza said. It was the first Friday protest in which no fatalities or fatal injuries were recorded since the protests began six weeks ago.

Israel has accused Hamas of using the mass protests, which drew thousands each Friday, as cover to attempt attacks. 

Reuters contributed to this report

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