JERUSALEM — An Israeli airstrike killed a Gaza man Thursday, while a second Palestinian died of wounds sustained in last week's mass protest along the Gaza-Israel border, officials said.
The deaths brought to 21 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire over the past week, including 15 who had been involved in the protests.
The man killed in the airstrike before dawn Thursday had approached the border fence with an assault rifle, the Israeli military said. It released a grainy video showing the armed man walking in the dark.
A new round of protests along the border is expected on Friday, raising the prospect of further bloodshed.
The protest march last week, largely organized by Gaza's Hamas rulers, had been billed as the first of several weeks of intermittent protests against a stifling decade-old Israeli blockade.
Hamas leaders have portrayed the final protest, set for May 15, as the "Great March of Return" of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, implying they would try to enter Israeli territory. But they have stopped short of specifically threatening a mass breach of the border fence.
The Israeli military has said it will not allow anyone to breach the border fence and has beefed up forces in the area, with snipers and other special units. The military was on high alert ahead of Friday.
Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N.'s Mideast envoy, urged both sides to show caution on Friday.
"Israeli forces should exercise maximum restraint and Palestinians should avoid friction at the Gaza fence," he said.
"Demonstrations and protests must be allowed to proceed in a peaceful manner," he added. "Civilians, particularly children, must not be intentionally put in danger or targeted in any way."
Meanwhile, Gaza health officials said a 34-year-old Palestinian who was seriously injured in last week's protests died of his injuries Thursday.
Hundreds more were wounded by live fire last week, according to Palestinian health officials. Of the 21 dead so far, 15 were killed during border protests, and videos and witness accounts indicate that most were not armed or carrying out attacks at the moment they were killed.
Hamas announced it is distributing money to the families of those killed and wounded in Friday's clashes. Families of those killed receive $3,000. Wounded receive $500 or $200 depending on the injury.
Hamas said in a statement the money is part of its "national and social responsibility in boosting the steadfastness" of the people.
Israel's military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, alleged that Hamas is exploiting Gaza residents by urging them to attend the protests and "under the cover of these civilians carry out terror activities."
Manelis said several Israeli communities are close to the Gaza border and warned of the consequences of Palestinians breaching the fence.
Israel has defended its actions by saying the marches are planned by Hamas, which is sworn to Israel's destruction. It says the border fence was attacked with burning tires, stones and firebombs, and in one case, by a pair of gunmen in recent days. It says its snipers carefully targeted only the main "instigators," and accuses Hamas of using the crowds as cover to stage attacks.
"By defending the border fence, the IDF (army) is protecting civilian homes," the military said on Twitter.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned in a radio interview on Thursday that Israel would respond harshly to any attempt to violate its security. Earlier this week, Lieberman said Gazans who approach the fence would be risking their lives.
Rights groups have condemned orders to shoot unarmed protesters as unlawful, saying lethal force can only be used if soldiers face an apparent imminent threat to their lives. The Israeli group B'Tselem, in a rare appeal, urged Israeli soldiers to refuse such orders.
The United Nations and the European Union have called for independent investigations into the shootings.
Meanwhile, Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel held separate meetings this week with Israeli officials and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the West Bank-based rival of Hamas, in hopes of preventing an escalation on the Gaza border.
In recent months, Egypt had tried to broker a deal that would have enabled Abbas to take back control in the Gaza Strip, more than a decade after Hamas seized the territory from forces loyal to him.
Hamas, in turn, had hoped that Israel and Egypt would end their blockade Gaza if the group handed the reins of government to Abbas. However, talks broke down last month, in part because Hamas refused to disarm.
Hamas and Israel have fought three wars in the Gaza Strip since 2008.
Abbas told the Egyptian intelligence this week that he would not waste any more time negotiating a deal with Hamas and that he would only assume responsibility for Gaza if Hamas hands over all powers, including control over the security apparatus, according to two Palestinian officials.
All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of the meeting with reporters.