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Israel detains armed Palestinians who breached Gaza border

Israel has maintained a crippling siege on Gaza for more than a decade. [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 March, 2018

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Israeli is bracing for the annual Palestinian Land Day protests on 30 March to commemorate the killing of six unarmed Palestinian demonstrators in Israel in 1976.

Israel's army on Tuesday detained three armed Palestinians who had crossed the border with the Gaza Strip in possession of knives and grenades, military officials said.

The trio were apprehended some 20km inside Israel cloose to an army base. Police distributed pictures of hand grenades, knives and wire cutters found on them.

"We don't know who sent them and what their purpose was," an Israeli army spokeswoman told AFP.

The arrests come as Israel braces for the annual Palestinian Land Day protests on 30 March to commemorate the killing of six unarmed Palestinian demonstrators in Israel in 1976.

This year's demonstrations - due to take place in Gaza and the occupied West Bank - appear especially combustible as anger is already high in Palestine over US President Donald Trump's decision in December to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Gazans are calling for mass marches toward a border fence that seals off the coastal territory from Israel.

There have already been several incidents along the border in recent days. 

On Saturday, a number of Palestinians breached the border and tried to torch heavy equipment. Israeli jets responded by attacking Hamas positions in the besieged territory.

A day later gunfire from Gaza set off Israel's Iron Dome air defence system and in response an Israeli army tank fired at a Hamas position.

Israel has maintained a crippling siege of the Gaza Strip for more than a decade which it says is necessary to isolate Hamas, with whom it has fought three wars with since 2008.

Nearly two million people live in Gaza and receive only four hours of electricity a day.

Hospitals and other vital services rely on private generators provided by the United Nations, who warn Gaza hospitals are on the "verge of disaster" as fuel for emergency generators run out.

Human rights groups say it amounts to collective punishment of Gaza's residents, with more than half of whom being under the age of 24.

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