Friday, March 26, 2010

Israeli Troops Killed in Gaza Clash

Friday, March 26, 2010
20:30 Mecca time, 17:30 GMT

Israeli troops killed in Gaza clash

Hamas attributes Friday's clash to rising tensions in occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem

Two Israeli soldiers and two Palestinians have been killed in a clash east of the Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis.

The Israeli military said on Friday that there was an exchange of fire on the border after soldiers challenged Palestinians planting bombs near the separation barrier.

The military said an officer and a soldier have been killed and two soldiers were injured.

Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, said it was responsible for taking on the Israeli patrol.

Hamas response

"An Israeli army force raided 500 metres into Palestinian territory, and was confronted by our gunmen," Abu Obeida, a Hamas spokesman, said.

"This was our work, but was carried out for defence."

Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips, reporting from Gaza, said: "The al-Qassam Brigades gave a press conference and said that at 2:30pm local time an Israeli incursion began into Gaza. Israeli soldiers on foot, tanks and helicopters crossed into Gaza and the al-Qassam Brigades responded with sniper fire.

"Witnesses in the area are saying that what took place is now over; it is quiet and Israeli tanks have withdrawn.

"Palestinian medical sources have told us three injured civilians have been taken to a hospital nearby," he said.

Witnesses said Friday's exchange of fire began when an explosion, possibly caused by an anti-armour rocket fired from the nearby Palestinian town of Khan Younis, hit an Israeli army patrol on the central Gazan border.

Backed by tanks, the troops fired back at their assailants and entered Gazan territory, the witnesses said. Such pursuits are common practise for the Israelis, who try to maintain a buffer zone within the border fence off-limits to Palestinians.

Our correspondent said Hamas officials in Gaza acknowledge the increase in tension that is "in some ways related, of course, to the situation in Jerusalem".

"Hamas say that they are at pains overall not to incite the Israeli army at this point in time and that they don't want trouble," he said.

The witnesses also said that, during the fighting, Israeli soldiers took away a wounded comrade and helicopters came to the scene, apparently for medical evacuations.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Gaza militants kill Israel troops

Two Israeli soldiers have been killed during clashes with Hamas fighters on the Gaza Strip's southern border, the Israeli army has said.

Two other soldiers were wounded during the fighting which broke out east of the town of Khan Younis.

Two Palestinian militants were also killed in the clashes, Palestinian and Israeli sources say.

The unrest may have been sparked by a bid by militants to seize an Israeli soldier, a BBC correspondent says.

Palestinian militants carried out a raid across the fence line and the Israeli military then appears to have pursued them back into Gaza, says the BBC's Paul Wood, in Jerusalem.

'Further response expected'

According to Palestinian sources, Israeli forces responded using tank shells and heavy machine guns, our correspondent adds.

In a statement sent to the BBC, Hamas' armed wing - the Al-Qassam Brigades - said it killed the two Israeli soldiers.

Speaking to Reuters news agency, Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida is quoted as saying: "This was our work, but was carried out for defence".

Local sources in Gaza say another smaller group, the PFLP General Command, was also involved. This was broadly the same coalition responsible for seizing Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit more than three years ago, our correspondent says.

Eyewitnesses in the area described a brief period of heavy clashes and also said that a powerful explosion took place.

Our correspondent says that, if the past is any guide, a further Israeli military response can also now be expected.

A ceasefire between Israel and Islamist militant group Hamas, which governs Gaza, has largely held since the 2008-2009 conflict with Israel. Gaza remains under an Israeli-led blockade.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2010/03/26 17:21:16 GMT

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