A Palestinian militant infiltrated into Israel and set off ashootout that left the infiltrator and one Israeli soldier dead,the military says. The incident touched off fresh violence in the volatile borderarea, which has been largely quiet since March. The exchange Friday began after the militant cut through the fenceseparating the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and southern Israel, promptingIsraeli troops to open fire. Later, the Israeli military said two rockets landed in southernIsrael, causing no damage or injuries. |
Gaza health official AdhamAbu Salmia said three people were seriously wounded when an Israeliairstrike targeted their vehicle. The border has been mostly calm since the last escalation in Marchbut shootouts such as Friday's and other violent incidents alwaysraise concerns of a new Israel-Gaza flare-up. No group took responsibility for the infiltration but in a textmessage sent to journalists, a group from Gaza, the Islamic Jihad,welcomed the attack. It identified the militant as Ahmad Nassar andcalled him a "martyr who has carried out the heroic attack." Tank fire reported Residents of southern Gaza said they heard gunfire in the earlymorning hours and described hearing Israeli helicopters circling inthe air.
They also said tank shells were fired into Gaza that setfire to their fields. An Israeli security official said air and ground forces were firingwarning shots toward open areas in southern Gaza. He spoke oncondition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discussdetails of military operations. Israel's border with Gaza has been relatively quiet since a threeweek war launched in December 2008 against the militant Hamasgroup, which rules the coastal strip. Still, there have been some flare-ups between militants and Israelisoldiers guarding the border.
The last major deadly incident alongthe Gaza border took place in March 2010, when two Israeli soldierswere killed in clashes. Israel's military also launches airstrikesin response to rocket fire by militants. The last round of violence in March took place after Israel killeda militant leader, setting off four days of rocket barrages fromPalestinian militants and airstrikes by the Israeli military. That uptick left at least 24 Palestinians dead and disrupted thelives of about 1 million Israelis living in rocket range. Hamas stayed out of the fighting in March, letting militants fromthe Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance Committees carry out theattacks on Israel.
Hamas wants to avoid a full-scale offensive against Gaza, fearing amajor conflict could undermine its control of the territory itviolently overran five years ago. But Israel considers Hamas responsible for all attacks from Gazaand notes that the militant group, which refuses to renounceviolence against Israel, has continued to stockpile bigger andbetter weapons since the war.
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