Palestinian, Israeli killed in shootout near Gaza

An Israeli soldier and a Palestinian militant died in a shootout near the border with the Gaza Strip.

Last Updated: Jun 01, 2012, 14:15 PM IST

Jerusalem: An Israeli soldier and a Palestinian militant died in a shootout between the militant and Israeli troops near the border with the Gaza Strip, the military said on Friday.

The exchange of fire began after the militant crossed the fence separating the Hamas-run coastal strip and southern Israel.

The border has been mostly calm since the last escalation in March but shootouts such as today`s and other violent incidents always raise concerns of a new flare-up between Israel and Gaza.

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

An Israeli security official said air and ground forces were firing warning shots toward open areas in southern Gaza.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to release details of military operations.

Israeli media reported that troops were searching the area near the border for other militants who may have crossed over. Israel`s border with Gaza has been relatively quiet since a 2009 war with the militant Hamas group, which rules the coastal strip.

Still, there have been some flare-ups between militants and Israeli soldiers guarding the border. Israel`s military also launches airstrikes in response to rocket fire by militants.

The last round of violence in March took place after Israel killed a militant leader, setting off rocket barrages from Palestinian militants and airstrikes by the Israeli military.

That uptick left dozens of Palestinians dead and disrupted the lives of about one million Israelis living in rocket range.