GAZA CITY – At least three soldiers were killed and others wounded when an Israeli occupation army unit advanced into a neighborhood to the east of Gaza City and clashed with resistance fighters on Wednesday, April 16.
"Three soldiers were killed and three were wounded in an exchange of fire," an army spokeswoman told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The Palestinian resistance group Hamas said the invading Israeli forces walked into a "sophisticated ambush" laid by its fighters.
"Raiding our areas will never be a picnic," Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, told a news conference.
The Israeli spokeswoman admitted that the Palestinian resistance fighters had used anti-tank missiles and mortars.
Palestinian medical workers and Hamas said Israeli troops killed four Hamas fighters in a separate battle east of Gaza City, a few hundred meters from the Nahal Oz border terminal used to supply fuel to the coastal territory.
Two civilians were also wounded when their house was hit by an Israeli tank shell, medics said.
In one of the areas east of Gaza City, Israeli armored vehicles hit and damaged a mosque.
Orange and olive trees were also uprooted.
An Israeli air strike late Tuesday killed Mohammed Ghausain, Islamic Jihad’s commander in northern Gaza.
Several bystanders were also wounded in the strike against Ghausain who was riding a motorbike near Jabaliya in the north of the territory.
Israel frequently carries out air strikes and raids against the Gaza Strip under the pretext of targeting those launching rockets into its southern towns.
The latest casualties bring to 396 the number of people killed, most of them Palestinians, since November, according to an AFP count.
In a separate development, two Hamas leaders left the Gaza Strip Wednesday to meet former US president Jimmy Carter in Cairo after Israel refused to allow him to visit the besieged territory.
"Mahmud Zahar and Said Siam are going today to Cairo to meet Jimmy Carter as part of his tour of the Middle East region," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zouhri said.
Zahar and Siam served as foreign and interior ministers in the government Hamas formed after it trounced rival Fatah of President Mahmoud Abbas in the 2006 parliamentary elections.
They did not keep their seats in the Hamas-led national unity government with Fatah.
Carter, winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace prize and the architect of the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty, has criticized Israel for denying him permission to travel to the Gaza Strip.
"I haven’t been able to get a permission to go to Gaza. I would like to. I asked for permission but I was turned down," he told reporters in Ramallah.
Israel sealed the borders with Gaza after Hamas assumed full control of Gaza in June after ousting security forces loyal to Fatah.
Carter and his wife Rosalynn laid a wreath on the tomb of late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat in Ramallah.
He began on Sunday a nine-day tour of the region to promote the Middle East peace process.
In addition to Israel, he will visit Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
The former US president will meet Hamas political chief Khaled Mechaal in Damascus over the weekend, despite strong opposition from Israel and the US.
"I’m going to try everything I can to get him to agree to a peaceful resolution of differences both with the Israelis and with Fatah," he said.
"But I’m not a negotiator, I’m just trying to understand different options and communicate.
"If he has anything constructive to say, he or the Syrian president, then I would bring it to other people."
Carter ruffled Israeli feathers with a 2006 book comparing the Israeli occupation with South Africa’s apartheid regime.
(IslamOnline.net and agencies)