Israeli Soldier, Palestinian Farmer Killed

An Israeli soldier and a Palestinian farmer were killed on Tuesday, January, in the latest test to the shaky ceasefire in place since Israel ended its 22-day onslaught against the Gaza Strip.

"An explosive device was detonated near an army force patrolling the border on the Israeli side," an Israeli security source told Agence France Presse (AFP).

The source declined to comment on casualties reports.

The Dubai-based Al-Arabiya channel said an Israeli soldier was killed and three others wounded in the explosion that targeted their patrol near Kissufim crossing in the southern Gaza Strip.

The Doha-based Al-Jazeera television said one soldier was killed when an anti-personnel shell hit an Israeli military jeep.

Palestinian witnesses said after the explosion Israeli troops crossed into Gaza to search for the attackers.

No Palestinian group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.

Israeli troops and tanks later opened fire on civilians near the blast area killing 27-year-old farmer Anwar Al-Dreim.

Dreim’s death takes the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli troops since the end of its three-week war on Gaza to three, all civilians, while the Israeli soldier would be the first fatality.

Ceasefire Talks

The latest tension comes as Egypt continues it efforts to broker a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian groups in Gaza.

"The truce will encompass the opening of passages (into Gaza) and will be between Israel and the five main Palestinian factions," Saleh Zaidan, an official of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said late Monday.

He stressed that no final agreement has been reached so far on the proposed truce.

Israel and Palestinian factions have declared separate, unilateral ceasefires in the Gaza Strip following the end of the Israeli onslaught.

Egypt been holding separate talks with both sides to negotiate a long-term truce, which it wants to begin on February 5.

Hamas, which has offered a one-year calm, is still considering an Israeli proposal for an 18-month renewable ceasefire.

It insists that Israel and Egypt open crossing points into the Gaza Strip and left the long-running blockade on Gaza, a costal enclave of 1.6 million.

Egypt refuses to permanently open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza in the absence of representatives of President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas rival.

Hamas has been ruling Gaza since driving out forces loyal to Abbas last June.

( and newspapers)

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