Israeli soldier, Palestinian gunman killed in Gaza

Date: 06-19-05

GAZA (Reuters) - A Palestinian gunman and an Israeli soldier were killed in an exchange of fire in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday after militants fired anti-tank missiles at Israeli troops and civilian labourers.

The Palestinian attack along Gaza's border with Egypt coincided with a visit to Israel and the West Bank by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and was the latest violence to fray a shaky cease-fire.

The militant Islamic Jihad organisation and the Abu Rish Brigades, a splinter group linked to the mainstream Fatah faction, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Palestinians identified the dead Palestinian as a 19-year-old fighter from the Abu Rish brigades. They said three other gunmen escaped unharmed after the incident.

One Israeli soldier was killed and two were wounded when Palestinian gunmen launched anti-tank rockets and opened fire at a group of troops and civilians carrying out engineering work along the border, the army said.

Islamic Jihad said the attack was in response to Israeli actions including raids and the arrest in the West Bank last week of senior political leader Mohammed Jaradat.

"Calm is in real danger because of the continuation of the Israeli aggression," senior Islamic Jihad leader Nafez Azzam told Reuters.

Rice, in talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, said she won a joint commitment to co-ordinate Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip to ensure the evacuation of all 21 Jewish settlements in the occupied territory is carried out peacefully.

Israel intends to begin the withdrawal in mid-August and has warned of tough military action should Palestinian militants try to disrupt it. Israel wants Palestinian security forces to keep militants in check.

In an incident in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers arrested a Palestinian youth trying to smuggle four pipe bombs hidden in a crate through a military checkpoint near the city of Nablus, Israeli and Palestinian security sources said.

An army spokesman said it was the 21st incident in the past three months in which Palestinian youths have attempted to smuggle bombs and explosives through military checkpoints.



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