Israeli shot dead in Gaza clash

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The Independent Online

Two Palestinian gunmen opened fire near the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza early today, killing at least one Israeli before being shot dead.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a militant group linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the attack.

In a phone call to The Associated Press news agency in Gaza, Al-Aqsa identified the gunmen as Ashraf Zakout and Aymen Sahwiel.

Palestinian sources reported that an exchange of gunfire lasted for about an hour between the gunmen and soldiers.

The attack was near the Erez crossing, which thousands of Palestinians use every day to get to work inside Israel.

Israeli radios and a settler spokesman reported that one Israeli had been killed. Initially, they said two other Israelis had been wounded in the attack but later retracted the statement. A rescue service spokesman confirmed no Israelis had been wounded in the attack.

The army closed down the Erez crossing and industrial zone.

In January, a female suicide bomber killed four Israelis when she blew up in the terminal used by workers to get to Israel.

Since the attack, the army has clamped tight security regulations on the crossing, forcing workers to pass with their hands up and their shirts lifted to make sure they are not armed with explosives.

The security measures cause Palestinians to wait in long lines, and many workers arrive the night before to begin their commute to Israel.

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