The armed Palestinians were just metres from an army outpost responsible for protecting the settlement of Dugit when soldiers spotted them and fired late on Wednesday, the Israeli army claimed on Thursday.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian President Yasir Arafat's Fatah movement, said that its activists had tried to carry out a resistance attack at the settlement.

In a separate incident just before midnight, troops near the Gaza settlement of Bedolah saw a Palestinian digging in the sand, a military official said. Soldiers fired in the air, but when the Palestinian failed to leave they fired and hit him, the official said.

It was still unclear on Thursday whether the Palestinian was killed or wounded. Searches were expected later in the day.