GAZA CITY – Palestinian militants killed one Israeli soldier and seriously wounded another in a cross border bombing Tuesday, prompting an Israeli counter-attack that killed a Palestinian farmer and wounded a Hamas fighter.
The clash, near the central Gaza border crossing of Kissufim, is the most serious threat so far to the separate cease-fires declared by Israel and Hamas that have largely held since Jan. 18, following a three-week Israeli offensive.
The Israeli army reported that an “explosive device” was detonated Tuesday around 9 a.m., targeting a patrol on the Israeli side of the border fence. One “noncommissioned officer” was killed and a second officer “seriously wounded,” an army spokeswoman said. A third soldier also suffered injuries.
Israel responded immediately, as jeeps, backed by tank and helicopter fire staged a brief incursion. Troops withdrew by early evening, residents said.
Gunfire was heard throughout the day along the border near Kissufim, east of the town of Deir al Balah.
One Palestinian farmer was killed by gunfire, according to local medical sources. Tuesday afternoon, an Israeli missile targeted a known militant fighter riding a motorcycle near the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis. Hussein Shameya, 24, was seriously injured and two bystanders were wounded by shrapnel, according to medical sources.
Area residents say Shameya was active in Hamas’ military wing, although it was unclear whether he had a role in the border bombing.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the morning attack. Israeli officials maintain that they hold the militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, responsible for the actions of all Palestinian resistance factions.