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Four Islamic Jihad militants dead in Gaza explosion

A member of the Islamic Jihad Movement stands guard during a rally to mark the anniversary of the movement's foundation on October 21, 2016 in Gaza City
MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

Four Palestinians died after an explosion in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday were Islamic Jihad members, the terrorist group said.

Islamic Jihad's armed wing, in a statement, said four of its fighters had been killed during "preparations", without giving further details.

The men died when a 'tuk tuk' vehicle exploded a few hundred meters from the border with Israel, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

Islamic Jihad is an ally of Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas.

Maan news agency named the dead men as Hisham Abdel-Aal, Elias Al-Qattros, Ayed Al-Hamaydeh and Mohammad Al-Qarawi.

Earlier Maan, quoting an eyewitness, said that an Israeli strike targeted youths carrying tires in a vehicle near Rafah.

However the Israeli military said that "contrary to reports" it had not carried out any military activity in Gaza at the time. It usually declares military strikes on the Strip.

A source in Gaza had said that the explosion was caused by a homemade device.

Islamic Jihad, which is supported by Iran, has fought alongside Hamas against Israel in multiple wars, most recently in 2014.

The explosion follows three consecutive weeks of violence on the Gaza border, in which some 32 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire during demonstrations.

Israel has accused the Islamist group Hamas of carrying out terror attacks under the "cover" of the mass protests.

AFP and Senior Middle East Correspondent Mohammed Al-Kassim contributed reporting.

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