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Palestinian Killed as Israeli Tanks Enter Gaza: Medics


An Israeli tank passes by bulldozers on the Israel Gaza Strip border, Saturday, March 27, 2010. Two Israeli soldiers and a Palestinian civilian were killed Friday as a gunbattle between troops and Palestinian militants widened into some of the fiercest fighting in the Gaza Strip since Israel's military offensive there last year. (AP Photo / Tsafrir Abayov)

ABBASSAN, Gaza Strip - Israeli tanks overnight pushed into the Gaza Strip following the killing by militants of two Israeli soldiers, sparking a clash in which a Palestinian died, medical officials said Saturday.

At least seven Palestinians were injured in the clash at the village of Abbassan near the southern city of Khan Yunis, which comes amid the worst spate of violence in the besieged coastal territory in 14 months.

The Palestinian medics said the death and injuries were caused by a tank shell but gave no further details.

Villagers said tanks, bulldozers and jeeps launched an incursion into Abbassan as military helicopters hovered overhead.

They said members of the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad militant group, then exchanged fire with the troops.

A two-storey house was demolished and another damaged in the operation before the troops returned to Israeli soil, they said.

They named the man killed as Hassan Arafat, a 23-year-old member of the Al-Quds Brigades.

Villagers in their hundreds poured onto the streets of Abbassan on Saturday for the funeral of Arafat, vowing "revenge against Tel Aviv."

The incursion followed a fierce clash Friday on the border between the Gaza Strip and the Jewish state in which two Israeli soldiers, one an officer, and four Palestinians were killed, according to the Israeli army.

General Yoav Golan, the army's commander for the southern region, said one of the Israelis died when his own grenade exploded and that a total of four Palestinians were killed.

Palestinian officials have not confirmed the toll.

Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigade, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas which rules Gaza, has claimed responsibility for the killing of the two soldiers in the heaviest fighting in the territory since the end of the 2008-09 Gaza war.


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In a statement, the group said Friday's clashes erupted after Israeli soldiers "crossed 500 metres (yards) inside the border."

The Israeli army meanwhile announced that Palestinian militants early Saturday fired a rocket from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

The projectile landed in a field and caused neither casualties nor damage, an army spokesman said in Jerusalem.

Approximately 35 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since the beginning of the year, and more than 330 since the end of a 22-day Israeli offensive in Gaza in January 2009.

The renewed fire comes after a year of quiet since Israel launched that assault, which was aimed at halting rocket fire.

Some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the conflict.

The violence added to the strain on Israel, which is already under international pressure from the United States and Europe to halt Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem, which Israel calls its capital and which the Palestinians regard as the capital of their future state.

Friday's violence came even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was meeting his security cabinet over US demands for more peace-promoting concessions.

His government reiterated Friday, however, there was no change in Israel's contentious settlements policy.

On the eve of the Arab summit which opens in Libya on Saturday, Arab League chief Amr Mussa said Israel must scrap its planned construction in annexed east Jerusalem before indirect peace talks with the Palestinians can take off.

The spat with Washington erupted after Netanyahu's government announced it would build 1,600 new homes for Jewish settlers in east Jerusalem as US Vice President Joe Biden was in the region earlier this month hoping to promote peace talks.

Netanyahu's carefully coordinated dressing down on a trip to Washington earlier this week was reportedly accompanied by demands for wide-ranging measures including the extension of a partial settlement halt and the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

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