GAZA – Hamas arrested two militants who fired cross-border rockets into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip on Thursday as Israeli troops killed a Palestinian civilian along the border in the southern Gaza Strip, the first fatality since a fragile truce went into effect three weeks ago.
"At around 3 o’clock an army force identified a suspicious person crossing the fence from Gaza into Israel near Kissufim. The force called on him to stop and fired warning shots but he did not stop and the soldiers fired at him and killed him," an Israeli army spokesman told AFP.
"When they approached his body they saw he was unarmed," he said, adding there had been several attempts by Palestinian militants to plant bombs in the border area.
The head of Gaza emergency services, Muawiya Hassanin, confirmed that civilian Salim Jumaa al-Hamedi, 18, was shot and killed in the Kissufim area.
It was the first fatality since a truce in and around Hamas-ruled Gaza went into effect on June 19, although both sides have accused each other of violations.
The death brings to 526 people the number of people — nearly all Palestinians and the majority of them Gazans — killed since Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resumed in November, according to an AFP count.
Before Thursday’s shooting, Palestinian and UN officials also accused Israeli troops of firing into the Gaza Strip on several occasions since the truce came into effect, wounding at least two people. The Israeli army rejected the claims, saying it fired only warning shots.
Egypt, which acted as go-between in the truce negotiations, is also mediating efforts to reach a prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel.
Israel wants the release of Gilad Shalit, a conscript held by Hamas since his capture in a deadly cross-border raid in June 2006.
The Islamist group is seeking the release of 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
Hamas arrested three Palestinians who fired rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip later on Thursday, in the first such detentions since truce last month, a militant faction said.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a group linked to President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah group, said Hamas men pursued two of its members after the attack and "abducted them" in Jabalya refugee camp.
No one was hurt after two rockets hit southern Israel.
"We demand their immediate release," said Abu Qusai, a brigades spokesman.
The ceasefire deal calls on Hamas to prevent cross-border rocket fire and attacks from the Gaza Strip and for Israel to halt its raids and ease an economic blockade.
Israel tightened restrictions on the passage of people and goods to and from the impoverished territory after Hamas seized control of it a year ago. United Nations officials said Gaza’s goods crossings were still shut rather often despite the truce.
Although Israel has responded to cross-border rocket fire by frequently shutting Gaza’s crossings, records compiled by Western officials show up to a 44 percent increase in goods imports in recent weeks, including a 30 percent rise in fuel.
(AFP via agencies)