Two killed at Gaza-Israel checkpoint

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The Independent Online

Two Palestinians armed with an explosives belt attacked the Erez checkpoint between Israel and Gaza before daybreak today, and were killed in an ensuing shootout with Israeli troops.

The Palestinians threw hand grenades and opened fire on Israeli forces guarding the checkpoint, and soldiers shot the attackers, killing both, the military said. There were no Israeli casualties.

The explosives belt exploded during the exchange of fire, it added.

The Popular Resistance Committees and Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades claimed joint responsibility for the attack.

Erez is the main crossing for thousands of Palestinian workers with jobs in Israel. Israel routinely closes the crossing after violent incidents, leaving the workers idle.

Yesterday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed an armed Palestinian as he approached the Karni cargo crossing between Gaza and Israel. A second Palestinian died of his wounds yesterday evening, Palestinian hospital officials said. Both were members of the violent Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.

The past week has been a violent one, with Palestinians stepping up rocket attacks against southern Israeli towns from Gaza, and Israel retaliating with artillery fire and airstrikes. Over the past week, 13 Gaza militants have been killed in airstrikes and other incidents.

Since Israel withdrew from Gaza last summer, it has said it would not tolerate Palestinian attacks originating from the coastal strip.