Shelling kills Palestinian militant
An Israeli air strike killed a Palestinian militant in the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip today as a surge in cross-border violence entered its second day, local officials said.
Islamic Jihad, a smaller faction than Hamas which often operates independently, identified the dead man as one of its own, saying he was a member of a rocket crew hit by an Israeli missile in Jabalya, northern Gaza.
The Israeli military confirmed carrying out an air strike in the area. The death brought to six the number of Palestinians killed by Israel since four of its troops were hurt in a missile attack on their truck along the Gaza boundary fence.
Islamic Jihad said it had fired 70 short-range rockets and mortar bombs across the border since yesterday, salvoes which drove Israeli residents to blast shelters. At least one Israeli, in the town of Sderot, was wounded, ambulance workers said.
Israel described the jeep ambush as part of a Palestinian strategy of trying to curb its countermeasures against possible cross-border infiltration. Israeli forces often mount hunts for tunnels and landmines on the inside of the Gaza boundary, creating a no-go zone for Palestinians.
"Of course we don't accept their attempt to change the rules," defence minister Ehud Barak told Israel's Army Radio. "The essence of the struggle is over the fence. We intend to enable the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) to work not just on our side but on the other side as well."
Palestinians said four of yesterday's dead were civilians hit by an Israeli tank shell while paying respects at a crowded mourning tent in Gaza's Shijaia neighbourhood. Israel denies targeting civilians.
The bloodshed puts internal pressure on Hamas, which, though hostile to the Jewish state, has sat out some of the recent rounds of violence as it tried to consolidate its Gaza rule and reach out to neighbouring Egypt and other foreign powers.
Israel blames Hamas for any attacks emanating from Gaza, but has shown little appetite for a major sweep of the territory which might strain its own fraught ties to the new Islamist-rooted government in Cairo.