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A Palestinian returns a tear gas canister during a protest calling for lifting the Israeli blockade on Gaza and demanding the right to return to their homeland, at the Israel-Gaza border fence in the southern Gaza Strip October 5, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

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GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli forces killed three Palestinians including a child at a border protest in Gaza on Friday, Palestinian officials said. The Israeli army said it was defending against members of the crowd who were throwing grenades and explosives at its soldiers.

Thousands of Palestinians had gathered for a weekly protest along Israel's border fence with the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamist group Hamas.

Gaza's Health Ministry said three Palestinians, including a 12-year-old boy, were shot dead by Israeli forces. At least 126 others were wounded by bullets, it said.

Israel's military said in a statement that some Palestinians were "throwing explosive devices and grenades, rolling burning tires and hurling rocks" at its soldiers and the border fence. A group even crossed the fence into Israel to throw grenades before returning to the Gaza Strip, it said.

No Israelis were wounded.

Israeli army gunfire has killed at least 195 Palestinians since the border protests began in March, Gaza medics say. An Israeli soldier has been killed by a Palestinian sniper. Tracts of Israeli land have been burnt up by incendiary materials flown over the border by kite or balloon.

Gaza protesters demand an end to an Israeli and Egyptian blockade and rights to lands that Palestinian families fled or were driven from on Israel’s founding in 1948.

Israel accuses Hamas of orchestrating the protests to provide cover for attacks and distract from Gaza’s economic plight, allegations it denies. Hamas seized control of Gaza from Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007 and has since fought three wars with Israel, most recently in 2014.

(Reporting by Saleh Salem; Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Reuters