Israeli troops kill Gaza militant in first truce fatality

by Sakher Abu El Oun Thu Jul 10, 11:30 AM ET

GAZA CITY (AFP) – Israeli troops shot dead an unarmed Palestinian militant on the border in the Gaza Strip Thursday, the first fatality of a fragile three-week-old truce, prompting retaliatory rocket fire.



Thu Jul 10, 11:30 AM ET

The body of Salim Jumaa al-Hamedi, 18, lies at the hospital morgue in Deir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip. Israeli troops shot dead the armed Palestinian militant on the border in the Gaza Strip, the first fatality of a fragile three-week-old truce, prompting retaliatory rocket fire.

(AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Troops “identified a suspicious person crossing the fence from Gaza into Israel near Kissufim. The force called on him to stop and fired warning shots but he did not stop and the soldiers fired at him and killed him,” an army spokesman said.

“When they approached his body they saw he was unarmed,” he said, adding that there had been several attempts by Palestinian militants to plant bombs in the border area.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party, claimed the man, Salim al-Hamedi, was one of its members.

“We will respond to this crime soon,” it said.

Several hours later, two homemade rockets were fired on southern Israel from Gaza, without any initial report of casualties, the army said.

The Brigades issued a statement claiming responsibility for “firing two rockets on the settlement of Sderot.”

The Israeli “occupation should know that we will continue to respond to Zionist violations (of the treaty), the latest of which was the cold-blooded killing of Salim al-Hamedi,” it said.

It was the first fatality since a truce in and around Hamas-ruled Gaza went into effect on June 19, although both sides have accused each other of violations.

The death brings to 526 people the number of people — nearly all Palestinians and the majority of them Gaza militants — killed since Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resumed in November, according to an AFP count.

Gaza militants fired mortars rounds at Israel on Monday and again on Tuesday, but the rounds did not cause any damage or casualties.

Rockets have now been fired at Israel on five occasions since the start of the truce between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement that seized power in Gaza in June last year.

Hamas has insisted it is respecting the Egyptian-mediated truce and doing its best to get other factions in the impoverished Palestinian territory to do the same.

Israel sealed Gaza’s borders on several occasions in response to the attacks, preventing delivery of the already limited quantities of goods allowed into the territory where a majority of the 1.5 million population relies on foreign aid.

Hamas has claimed this in itself was a violation of the truce deal which entailed a gradual easing of the embargo imposed after the Islamists seized power in Gaza.

Before Thursday’s shooting, Palestinian and UN officials also accused Israeli troops of firing into the Gaza Strip on several occasions since the truce came into effect, wounding at least two people.

The Israeli army rejected the claims, saying it fired only warning shots.

Egypt, which acted as go-between in the truce negotiations, is also mediating efforts to reach a prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel.

Israel wants the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit, a conscript held by Hamas since his capture in a deadly cross-border raid in June 2006.

The Islamist group is seeking the release of 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080710/ts_afp/mideastconflictgaza;_ylt=Av4qdLy9_LfD9fq_ZQCbNbJ34T0D

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