Two dead after Gaza militant launches attack on Israeli troops


A Palestinian militant entered Israel early yesterday, opening fire on a group of soldiers, killing one of them before being shot dead.

The militant cut through the fence separating southern Israel and the Gaza Strip, which is run by Hamas. He started shooting, prompting Israeli troops to respond, said an Israeli army spokesman.

Later, it was claimed that two rockets landed in southern Israel, causing no damage or injuries. Adham Abu Salmia, a Gaza health official, said three people were seriously wounded when an Israeli air strike targeted their vehicle.

Following a three-week war launched by Israel in December 2008 against Hamas, the border has been mostly calm other than an escalation in March – but shootings such as yesterday's and other violent incidents always raise concerns of a new flare-up.

No group took responsibility for the infiltration, but in a text message sent to journalists, a group from Gaza, the Islamic Jihad, welcomed the attack. It identified the militant as Ahmad Nassar and called him a "martyr who has carried out the heroic attack".

In a statement, the military said it holds Hamas "solely responsible". It identified the dead Israeli soldier as Staff Sergeant Nitnel Moshiashvili, 21.

Residents of southern Gaza said they heard gunfire and helicopters circling in the early hours. They also said tank shells were fired into Gaza that set fire to their fields.