Israeli Troops Kill Hamas Member in Gaza Strip Flashpoint
A member of the armed wing of the Islamic movement Hamas was killed and another five people injured when Israeli soldiers shot at a service taxi in a fresh outbreak of violence in the Gaza Strip on Thursday.
The minibus was travelling between Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip and Gaza City in the north when it was intercepted by three army jeeps and then came under fire from a group of soldiers, witnesses said.
Hamas sources told AFP the dead man, Hani Abu Baqr, 31, the driver of the taxi, was a member of its armed wing, Ezzedin al-Qassem, who had been in a Palestinian jail between 1996 and 1996.
"This is a deliberate assassination," one source told AFP.
It was the latest in a string of targeted attacks by Israeli forces against militants from Hamas, its smaller rival, Islamic Jihad, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction.
Israeli army radio said the dead man and some of those injured were suspected of being "terrorists" who were involved in attacks on soldiers and civilians.
A Palestinian security official said four of the wounded were taken to hospital in Israel while the body of the dead man, and a fifth person who was lightly injured, were held by the Israeli army.
The death brings to 328 the number of people killed, most of them Palestinians, since the wave of deadly Israeli-Palestinian unrest erupted on September 28.
The army said it had retaliated when armed Palestinian approached a checkpoint at a junction near the Gush Katif Jewish settlement bloc, not far from the Kissufim crossing point into Israel.
"The Palestinian drew a weapon towards the soldiers and, as a result, was shot by the army forces at the checkpoint," it said in a statement.
The Palestinian security official denied that the man was carrying a gun, adding that Israel was expected to hand over his body later Thursday.
In another incident, the army said a bomb exploded near soldiers at the Morag settlement, which forms part of the Gush Katif bloc.
"At the same time, shots were fired towards the army, which retaliated," it said, without reporting any injuries.
And in the divided West Bank town of Hebron, a Jewish settler was lightly wounded when his car came under Palestinian gunfire, a Palestinian security source said.
An army spokesman said Wednesday that four Hamas militants had been arrested earlier this week for an attack last Friday near Hebron which left two settlers dead.
Army radio quoted the army commander for the Hebron area, Noam Tibon, as saying that, despite the latest Hamas arrests, "there should be no expectation that this will bring an end to the attacks."
A Hamas militant was shot dead by Israeli troops on Wednesday outside his shop in Hebron, where some 400 extremist Jewish settlers live among a total Palestinian population of some 120,000.
Another four Palestinians were killed in fighting that followed an Israeli assault on the Khan Yunis refugee camp, that witnesses said was some of the worst violence in the area in weeks -- GAZA CITY (AFP)
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