An Israeli soldier and a Palestinian were killed on Tuesday in the deadliest flare-up of Gaza violence since the war, casting a shadow over the new US peace envoy's maiden trip to the region.
Israeli soldiers moved into the Gaza Strip and the military launched an air strike shortly after a soldier on the Israeli side of the border was killed in a bomb blast.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak warned that Israel would strike back after the blast, which came 10 days after his government and Hamas declared mutual ceasefires after a deadly 22-day onslaught on Gaza.
An officer was severely wounded and two other soldiers lightly injured in the attack near the Kissufim border crossing, an army spokesman said.
A 24-year-old Palestinian, Anwar Al-Dreim, was killed by Israeli fire shortly afterwards and a Hamas fighter and two other Palestinians were wounded in an air strike, also in the southern Gaza Strip, medics said.
Witnesses also reported that Israeli soldiers crossed into southern Gaza and fired towards a farmhouse, and conducted another incursion further north, taking up positions on rooftops while tanks fired at buildings.
Hope for lasting peace
A “permanent” truce between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip could be agreed in the first week of February, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said. Talks underway in Cairo with Palestinian factions aimed at shoring up peace in Gaza have “evolved positively,” he said.
Withdrawal of ships
Egypt warned European countries that sending warships to patrol the waters off the Gaza Strip could strain ties with the Palestinians and Arab countries.
“They must understand Arab and Muslim feelings,” Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said.