Israel raids Gaza, civilian and two militants killed
GAZA: Palestinian militants blew a three-meter hole in the Gaza-Egypt border wall on Thursday, in a bid to allow a crowd of about 5,000 Palestinians to enter Egypt, security and border sources said. The explosion was on the Palestinian side of the wall at the Salaheddin gate, and came despite heightened Egyptian security there. Egyptian police stopped any Palestinians coming through the hole into Egypt, the sources said. On Monday, Egypt deployed 1,300 civilian police officers to strengthen security along the Gaza-Egypt border over fears Palestinian militants might try to breach it.
In the past, militants have blown holes in the wall, allowing unfettered passage between Egypt and Gaza. The official Rafah border crossing has been closed for much of the past few months, due to Israeli security warnings that have prevented European observers from reaching the internationally monitored border.
Israel has been concerned that arms smugglers and Islamic militants could freely cross from Egypt s Sinai Desert into Gaza.
Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man and seized his brother, a senior member of the ruling Hamas movement, during a raid in southern Gaza early on Thursday, witnesses and the Israeli army said. An Israeli army spokesman said soldiers had clashed with Palestinian gunmen in a house in the southern Gaza village of Abasan, near the town of Khan Younis, leading to the death. Family members identified the dead man as Youssef Abu Daqqa, the brother of Younis Abu Daqqa, a prominent member of Hamas in southern Gaza, who witnesses said was detained. The army would not confirm the identity of the arrested man. Abu Daqqa family members are known as Hamas supporters, but Youssef was described by locals as a civilian, not a militant. Hours earlier, Israeli soldiers shot dead two Palestinian militants from the Islamic Jihad group as they crawled along the border fence between Gaza and Israel near the town of Khan Younis shortly after midnight, medics and witness said. The Israeli army confirmed it had shot at two people seen crawling near the border. The operations are the latest in a nearly two month offensive by Israel against militants in the Gaza Strip which followed the seizure of an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, by militants, including members of Hamas, on June 25. Palestinian militants also were preparing to march on Rafah to protest against the closure of the border crossing that links Gaza with Egypt. Witnesses said several dozen armed men were in the group, which included members of the Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the militant wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement. Two days ago, militants threatened to forcibly reopen Rafah, which has largely been closed since late June. As part of its offensive over the past two months, Israel has detained dozens of top Hamas officials, including cabinet members and lawmakers in the occupied West Bank. Hamas, which took power in the Palestinian territories after winning parliamentary elections in January, is dedicated to Israel s destruction. Gaza, home to 1.4 million Palestinians, was occupied by Israeli troops until August last year, when soldiers and some 8,000 Jewish settlers pulled out after 38 years of occupation. In a separate development in the West Bank, a senior Palestinian militant leader was seriously wounded after he was shot from a passing car in the town of Jenin overnight, residents and medics said. Islamic Jihad said Hosam Jaradat, its leader in Jenin, was shot by an Israeli undercover unit. Medics said he was taken to hospital and was in critical condition. The Israeli army declined comment on the incident. Agencies