The violence on Sunday occurred at Gaza's disused international airport where Israeli forces have been deployed since an incursion last week in a bid to free a soldier kidnapped by Palestinian fighters during a cross-border raid.

Witnesses who live near Dahaniya, the site of the airport, said they heard gunfire and an explosion after darkness fell.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers opened fire on three men who approached them armed with guns and explosive belts, and that all three died of their wounds.