Israeli fire kills four Palestinians as troops shot at on Gaza border

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Israel struck Hamas targets in Gaza on Friday, killing at least four Palestinians, after gunmen killed an Israeli soldier near the border, officials said.

Israeli Defense Forces unleashed an air-barrage against targets in the Gaza Strip Friday evening; destroying multiple installations following a "serious shooting incident" against Israeli soldiers operating in the region.

A fourth Palestinian was shot dead during protests along the border, the health officials said.

The military wing of Hamas, the Islamist group that runs Gaza, named the three men as Shaban abu Khatar, Mohammed abu Farhana and Mahmoud Qushta, saying they were fighters.

Stressing that the army is on high alert, the statement said: "Hamas chooses to escalate tension and will bear the consequences of these actions".

A fireball explodes in Gaza City during an Israeli bombardment July 20.

Palestinian residents said the area was calm after midnight, and an Israeli Army spokeswoman confirmed there was no known military activity in the Gaza Strip.

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A spokesman told AFP it was the first time an Israeli soldier had been killed in or around Gaza during operations since the last war in 2014.

In recent weeks, Palestinians have shifted their focus to sending to burning kites and helium balloons over the Israeli border fence and into the farmland beyond.

The tactic has become popular during the months-long Gaza border protests known as The Great March of Return, in which Israeli security forces have killed more than 140 Palestinians.

Mr. Mladenov said on Twitter that "Everyone in Gaza needs to step back from the brink".

The militant Islamic Hamas that rules Gaza said three of the Palestinians killed were members of the group.

Hamas on Friday vowed it will continue weekly protests and the launching of incendiary devices at Israel. Later Friday night, rocket sirens sounded in southern Israel, and the military said it had detected at least three launches from Gaza, with two intercepted. Right NOW! Those who want to provoke #Palestinians and #Israelis into another war must not succeed.

Khalil al-Hayya, Hamas's deputy chief in Gaza, said the kites would continue to fly.

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