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Israel carries out air strike after bomb kills soldier on Gaza border

Posted by claudiacampli su 27 gennaio, 2009

Times

Israel carried out an air strike on the Gaza Strip today after Palestinian militants killed a soldier in a bomb attack, as the fragile ceasefire between the two sides stood on the brink of collapse.

The strike, targeting a Hamas militant riding a motorbike in the southern town of Khan Younis, came after Defence Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel “cannot accept” the bomb attack, which took place as the soldier patrolled the Kissufim crossing with Gaza.

The incident threatened to destroy the calm that has largely prevailed since Israel and the Islamist group ended a three-week conflict on January 17.

It comes at the worst possible time for humanitarian organisations, which have been distributing desperately needed aid to the coastal strip while international donors discuss how best to help the territory rebuild.

Israel closed its crossings into Gaza to humanitarian aid traffic after briefly opening them this morning.

As he called the meeting of security chiefs, Mr Barak said that Israel “cannot accept” the attack. “We will respond, but there is no point in elaborating,” he said.

Israeli soldiers briefly crossed the border in search of the attackers. A 27-year-old Palestinian man, believed to be a farmer, was killed in crossfire between the Army and Hamas militants and two others were wounded. An air strike against a Hamas militant on a motorbike left the target seriously wounded along with a passer-by.

No Palestinian militant group took responsibility for the bomb attack, believed to be the most serious breach of the truce that both sides are trying to firm up in Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo.

Despite this, Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas leader, said that Israel was to blame for continuing to fire into Gaza, adding that his group had not agreed to a full ceasefire but only to a “lull” in fighting. “The Zionists are responsible for any aggression,” he said.

Hamas had said in the past few days that it could agree to a year-long ceasefire if Israel ended its 18-month closure of the Gaza crossings.

After today’s attack, Palestinians living close to the area said that heavy shooting could be heard and reported seeing Israeli attack helicopters in the air. Shortly afterwards, an Israeli warplane flew over the strip causing a sonic boom, apparently in a warning to the population.

It raises fears that, despite the ceasefire, Hamas could be unable, or unwilling, to completely rein in more extreme groups who have continued to fire at Israeli forces. So far, however, the crude Qassam and Grad rocket attacks aimed at Israel’s southern towns and cities – the reason given by Israel for launching its initial, bloody Gaza raids – have not been repeated.

Local experts believe that the fighting between Israel and Hamas caused around $2 billion (£1.4 billion) in damage. The Israeli offensive killed 1,285 Palestinians. Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, were also killed during the fighting.

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  1. claudiacampli said

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