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Israel says killing of Hamas member in Gaza was due to 'misunderstanding'

Hamas says death of member of its armed wing, who had been tracking other Palestinians approaching the fence, 'will not go unpunished'
Palestinians flash the victory gesture and wave Palestinian flags during protests along the border with Israel east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip (AFP)

A Palestinian member of Hamas's armed wing has been shot dead by Israeli forces near the frontier fence in the northern Gaza Strip, a spokesperson for the group said on Thursday.

Hamas named the man killed as Mahmoud al-Adham.

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It said in a statement it would not let the death go "unpunished" and Israel "would bear the consequences of this criminal act".

According to a Hamas source speaking to Haaretz, Adham's job had been "preventing [Palestinians] from breaching the border fence."

The Israeli army confirmed this to the news site, saying "an intial investigation shows that a Hamas member approached the border fence area following two Palestinians who were moving close to the fence.

"Israel Defense Forces troops arrived at the scene and identified the Hamas member as an armed terrorist. They carried out a shooting that stemmed from a misunderstanding. The incident will be investigated."

Hamas's armed wing has observation points close to the border fence.

At least 295 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since major Hamas-backed protests began along the border fence in March 2018.

Most were killed during the protests but others were killed by air strikes or tank fire.

Six Israelis have been killed.

The enclave has been under siege since 2007, which has led to severe shortages and economic stagnation.

Under an informal agreement brokered in November, Israel was expected to ease restrictions in exchange for calm but Hamas has since accused Israel of not abiding by the agreement.

Fuel deliveries, which are coordinated with the United Nations and paid for by Gulf state Qatar, were part of that truce agreement.

They have improved electricity supply in the enclave, where residents currently receive around 12 hours of power a day, according to the UN.

Before the deal, the daily power supply was regularly as low as six hours.