Palestinian fighters storm Israeli border

1108.jpgGAZA CITY (AP) — Palestinian fighters broke through Israel’s heavily fortified Gaza border and battled troops inside Israel for about two hours Saturday, in an abortive attempt to abduct an Israeli soldier in which one of the raiders was killed but the military said no soldiers were harmed.It was the first cross-border incursion since fighters killed two soldiers and abducted a third a year ago.The Israel military said troops shot dead one of the raiders. Palestinians said another three fighters escaped back to Gaza unharmed.

Islamic Jihad said it carried out Saturday’s attack, near the Kissufim crossing between Gaza and Israel, along with Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a violent offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fateh movement.

Abu Ahmed, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, said that four fighters broke through the Gaza border fence and launched an assault on soldiers. He said three of the fighters returned to Gaza unharmed, but Islamic Jihad fighter Mohammad Jaabari, 19, was killed in the fight.

Abu Ahmed said the raiders meant to snatch a soldier but the attempt was foiled when Israeli helicopter gunships arrived on the scene.

“The aim of the operation was to withdraw with the soldier in captivity,” he said. “But the participation of Israeli helicopters prevented that.” On June 25 last year, Palestinians killed two soldiers and snatched one in a cross-border near the Kerem Shalom frontier post, about 22 kilometres south of the site of Saturday’s shoot-out. The captured soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, is still missing.

A five-month truce between the Gaza fighters and Israel collapsed in flames in May when a string of Palestinian rocket attacks into southern Israel triggered Israeli air strikes in response.

Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had been scheduled to meet in the West Bank this week to discuss the latest round of violence, but the Palestinians called it off, accusing Israel of rejecting all their proposals in preparatory talks.

Israel will only talk to Abbas, shunning the Palestinian government headed by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, the Islamic group behind the deaths of scores of Israelis in suicide bomb attacks, which is pledged to Palestinian rule over all of historical Palestine, including present-day Israel.

Hamas has shrugged off international demands that it renounce violence and recognise Israel’s right to exist, but a senior official Saturday took what appeared to be a softer line, saying only that Palestinians seek a state in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem.

Hamas was founded on a pledge to seek Israel’s destruction, but some in the movement have moderated their stance as part of the coalition with the more pragmatic Fateh. The Hamas-Fateh government’s platform calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.

“Now there is one team, one programme, one united government,” Moussa Abu Marzouk, a deputy to Hamas leader Khaled Mishaal, said in an interview published Saturday in the Hamas-linked “Palestine”. newspaper. “So there is a big chance to reach the goal we agreed upon at this stage, which is a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem,” he said.

Despite Abu Marzouk’s message of Palestinian unity, there was a fresh outbreak Friday night of fighting between Hamas and Fateh loyalists, with a total of eight people wounded from the two sides in an exchange of fire in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, Palestinian security officials said.

A truce declared two weeks ago was meant to end vicious fighting between the sides in which more than 50 Palestinians have died since mid-May, but on Thursday the violence returned when a Fateh man was killed in a Rafah shoot-out.

This week marks the anniversary of the 1967 war and Israelis and Palestinians staged rallies Saturday in protest against the four decades of occupation of Palestinian territory.

In Tel Aviv, demonstrators marched through the city centre, calling for immediate Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and a Gaza ceasefire. Police said “several thousand” people took part but could not give a more precise figure.

In the West Bank, about 150 protesters gathered at the Qalandia crossing point on the Israeli separation wall surrounding much of Jerusalem.

“We tell the world that 40 years of occupation is enough,” said one of the protesters, Allam Jarar, 56.

“This occupation must be stopped, and the Palestinian people must be given the right to self-determination.”

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