GAZA CITY: The Israeli military killed seven Palestinians during protests in Gaza on Friday as the defense minster ordered an "immediate" halt to fuel deliveries to the territory.
The deaths were the latest during demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel border. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during similar protests since March 30.
Israel followed up Friday's killings by increasing its choke hold on the territory, which has been under a blockade for more than a decade.
"Following the serious incidents in the Gaza Strip, the defence ministry orders the immediate halt to the delivery of fuel," Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said. The announcement comes just days after a UN-brokered deal to supply the territory with Qatari-bought fuel came into effect.
The Israeli army said five protesters were shot dead after breaking through the border fence and attacking an army post, Reuters reported.
But a spokesman for the Palestinian health ministry said seven Palestinian men were killed as thousands of protesters approached the heavily-guarded Israeli border.
Four died along the frontier east of Al-Bureij in central Gaza, one east of Gaza City and one near Rafah in southern Gaza, the spokesman said, adding that all the victims were men aged between 17 and 29.
Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said on Twitter an "organised attack" had involved around 20 Palestinians crossing the border after an explosive device destroyed a portion of the fence.
Five then tried to attack an army base and were shot, he said.
The army said approximately 14,000 "rioters and demonstrators" took part in Friday's protests.
The deaths of protesters has been a weekly occurence since the demonstrations started ahead of 70 year anniversary of the Palestinian Nakhba or "catastrophe" surrounding the creation of Israel.
The protesters are demanding to be allowed to return to lands now inside Israel, from which their families fled or were displaced during the 1948 war.
They are also calling for Israel to end its crippling blockade Gaza.
Israel accuses the enclave's rulers Hamas of leading the protests and using them as a cover for attacks.
There had been hopes the protests would ease after a UN-brokered agreement to ease the strip's energy crisis took effect this week.
However thousands again gathered Friday in sites along the border.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya also attended the protests east of Gaza City and hailed the ongoing demonstrations.
*With Reuters and AFP