Israeli soldier, Hamas fighter killed in Gaza gunbattle

Israel Materials 9 April 2008 11:34 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - An Israeli soldier and a Palestinian militant were killed in a heavy gunbattle near the southern Gaza Strip border with Israel, both sides reported.

The gunbattle erupted after Israeli tanks and bulldozers rolled some 800 metres into the southern Gaza Strip, into al-Qarara village, east of the city of Khan Younis near the border fence with Israel, at around 2:00 am, the residents said.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said the force entered to push back militants from the border fence area, who had been opening fire from there at Israeli soldiers patrolling the border. She said the army had also discovered a tunnel dug by militants in the area.

Militants opened machinegun fire and launched an anti-tank missile at the force, sparking the gunbattle, while Israeli helicopter gunships fired twice from the air at groups of gunmen involved in the fighting, the military spokeswoman said.

She said one Israeli soldier was killed and two lightly injured. The troops took in for questioning 10 Palestinians, she said. The army had earlier imposed military censorship on the soldier's death until his relatives were informed.

The radical Islamic Hamas movement ruling Gaza identified the Palestinian fatality as Mohammed Shameia, 23, a member of its armed wing.

The Israeli special force withdrew after dawn.