Middle East

Israel kills Palestinian farmer near Gaza 'buffer zone'

Israeli soldiers on the Israeli-Gaza border (January 2009)
Image caption Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza in 2005 but continues to control its borders

A 65-year-old Palestinian farmer has been shot dead by the Israeli army near the border, doctors in Gaza say.

Israel regularly fires on Palestinians who approach within 330m (985ft) of the fence - its "buffer zone" aimed at stopping explosives from being planted.

Meanwhile, militants in Gaza fired three rockets into Ashkelon, the Israeli military says. No-one was hurt.

The violence comes a day after Gaza's Hamas rulers urged militant groups to stop rocket attacks on Israel.

The rockets hit an industrial area on the southern edge of Ashkelon, 10km (six miles) north of Gaza, the Israeli army said.

It said it was not aware of Monday's shooting of the farmer, but witnesses in Gaza said the elderly man was shot and killed by soldiers in an Israeli watchtower as he was working some 2km (one mile) from the border.

Hamas appeal

Violence on the Gaza-Israel border has escalated in recent weeks.

Overnight on Sunday, Israel again carried out air strikes in the north and south of the Gaza Strip.

Last week, Israel shot dead two Palestinians it said were trying to cross over the border from Gaza.

On Friday, an Israeli soldier was killed in a so-called friendly fire incident, when his colleagues inadvertently fired on him while fighting with Palestinian militants.

A spokesman for Hamas said the group had met other militant factions in Gaza over the weekend to try to bring "control of the situation on the ground".

Most of the rockets fired out of Gaza do not come from Hamas but from smaller militant groups. Israel says Hamas could stop this from happening if it wanted to.

Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza in 2005 but continues to control its borders as well as Gaza's airspace and access to the sea.

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