ISRAEL LAUNCHES REPRISAL STRIKE FOR PALESTINIAN BOMBING DEATH OF SOLDIER

BY AMOS HAREL

The Israel Air Force attacked targets in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday afternoon, hours after an Israeli soldier was killed and three others were wounded in a Palestinian-rigged bomb attack near the border.

Palestinian witnesses also said by late Tuesday afternoon that Israeli tanks could be seen rolling into the Gaza Strip.

The incident near the border was the first deadly attack carried out by Palestinian militants since a cease-fire went into effect in the coastal strip 10 days ago.

The soldier, who served as an NCO in the army, was killed when a roadside bomb exploded near an Israel Defense Forces patrol along the Gaza border, near the Kissufim crossing.

The wounded Israelis were identified as an officer, who sustained serious wounds, and an additional NCO and soldier, who were lightly hurt. The wounded were taken for treatment to the Soroka hospital in Be’er Sheva. The soldiers’ families have been informed of the incident.

A Palestinian was reportedly killed in ensuing clashes between IDF soldiers and Gaza militants in the area. Heavy gunfire was audible along the border in central Gaza and Israeli helicopters hovered in the air, firing bursts from their machine guns, Palestinian witnesses said.

Gaza medical workers identified the Palestinian killed as a farmer.

Later Tuesday, the Israel Air Force targeted a motorcycle in the southern Gaza Strip, critically wounding two people, Hamas and Palestinian medical officials said. One of those wounded was a Hamas militant, said group spirces.

Hamas: Israel to blame for renewed violence

A political source in Jerusalem said that Israel must respond strongly and fiercely.

Although there was no claim of responsibility for Tuesday’s attack on the IDF soldiers, Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas leader, said Israel was to blame for continuing to fire into Gaza. Al-Masri said his group had not agreed to a full cease-fire but only to a lull in fighting.

“The Zionists are responsible for any aggression,” he said.

Israel has warned that it would respond harshly to any violations of the cease-fire, which ended the Israel Defense Forces’ 22-day offensive against Hamas in Gaza.

Israel’s stated goals in the campaign were the halting of cross-border rocket fire, the destruction of Hamas’ infrastructure and the restoring of its deterrence. After the operation, Israel declared that it had achieved its objectives.

See Related: GAZA

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