Israeli troops die on Gaza border as cabinet meets

Ministers discuss response to US pressure over East Jerusalem settlements

Two Israeli soldiers and two Palestinian militants were killed yesterday during fierce exchanges of gunfire across the Gaza border in one of the worst ground-fighting incidents since the offensive in the territory last year.

The bloodshed came as the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was holding a crucial meeting of his inner cabinet to consider US demands for confidence-building measures to help bring the moderate Palestinian leadership into political negotiations.

The Israeli military said the soldiers were killed, and two others injured, in the exchanges after troops opened fire at "terrorists who were planting explosives along the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip". The deaths, along with that of a soldier killed last week near the Gaza border by friendly fire, are the first Israeli military deaths since January last year.

Unusually after a year in which Hamas had been seen as seeking to enforce a de facto ceasefire, the Islamic faction's military wing said that its gunmen had been involved. Its spokesman Abu Obeida said that Israeli forces "fell into an ambush" east of Khan Younis. Officials in Gaza's Hamas-run Interior Ministry reported fire from Israeli artillery, tanks and a helicopter gunship. Local medics reported five Palestinians wounded; Al Arabiya Television showed residents crowding round ambulances unable to reach the scene because of gunfire.

Yesterday's meeting of Israel's security cabinet broke up without an official statement and is likely to be resumed after the Sabbath. A statement said that both internal discussions and talks with the US would continue. It followed a week of high tension that reached a peak with Mr Netanyahu's meeting with US President Barack Obama on Tuesday night. The crisis in US-Israeli relations, which originally blew up over Israel's plan to build another 1,600 homes in the Ramat Shlomo settlement, has since widened.

Israel's government is facing a series of demands by a sceptical Washington administration for measures designed to show it is serious about negotiating a peace deal with the Palestinians. Officials suggested before the inner cabinet meeting that two of the main sticking points remained: US demands for a curb on settlement construction in East Jerusalem, and for an extension of the partial freeze on settlements in the West Bank beyond September.

Shortly before yesterday's meeting Mr Netanyahu's office said: "The Prime Minister's position is that there is no change in Israeli policy on Jerusalem." He has consistently maintained that Israel has a right to build Jewish housing in East Jerusalem, which it unilaterally annexed after the 1967 Six Day War – a step never accepted by the international community.

Israel's President Shimon Peres hinted this week at a possible compromise where Jewish settlement in inner-city Arab areas of Jerusalem might slow but not in outlying so-called "Jewish neighbourhoods" beyond Israel's 1967 border. But it was far from clear that even that would be acceptable to cabinet hardliners who want unrestrained building across East Jerusalem. While the Defence Minister Ehud Barak and the Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor are said to favour going as far as possible towards meeting US demands, hardliners, such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Mr Netanyahu's Likud colleague Benny Begin are said to be in the rejectionist camp.

The tone of this week's diplomacy was set by 90 minutes of talks on Tuesday at the White House which were adjourned by President Obama so he could dine with his wife and daughters.

The President reportedly told Mr Netanyahu to contact him if there was "something new". It prompted one commentator to say that Mr Netanyahu had been treated like the President of Equatorial Guinea.

News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence