Middle East

Israeli and Palestinian killed in Gaza border clash

Smoke billows from the Gaza Strip as an Israeli tank monitors the border area after the firefight
Image caption Israeli tanks reportedly fired into Gaza after the firefight

An Israeli soldier and a Palestinian have been killed during an exchange of fire along the Gaza border.

The Israeli army said that a Palestinian militant cut through the boundary fence and opened fire on Israeli troops, who then shot back killing him.

Separately, at least three suspected militants were hurt in an Israeli air strike on Gaza.

The suspects had fired a rocket into Israel, the army said.

'Terrorist squad'

According to Israeli media, the exchange of fire between the Palestinian and Israeli soldiers happened near the Kissufim crossing early on Friday.

Reports say there was heavy mist in the area making it easier to approach the fence undetected early on Friday.

"A terrorist who was identified infiltrating Israel from the southern Gaza Strip opened fire at Israeli soldiers, who responded with fire. During the exchange of fire, the terrorist was killed," the Israeli army said in a statement.

It is not uncommon for the Israeli army to open fire on Palestinians who approach the fence.

But it is rare for a Palestinian to break through and for an Israeli soldier to be killed in such an exchange, the BBC's Jon Donnison reports.

The Israeli military maintains an exclusion zone on the Gaza side of the boundary between Gaza and Israel, and troops regularly carry out military activity in the area and fire on Palestinians who approach the fence.

Residents of southern Israel, quoted by the Associated Press, said they heard gunfire in the early morning and heard Israeli helicopters circling in the air.

They also said tank shells were fired into Gaza that set fire to fields.

Just hours later, Israel carried out an air strike on suspected militants travelling on a motorbike in southern Gaza.

"Israeli aircraft targeted a terrorist squad that fired a rocket at Israeli soldiers," army said.

At least three suspects were injured, one of them seriously. They are believed to be members of the Popular Resistance Committee.

Sources in Gaza say Hamas, which runs the territory, is now making efforts to restore calm, the BBC's Jon Donnison in Ramallah reports.

Recently the movement has not usually been directly involved in firing rockets into Israel. But Israel says Hamas - as the ruling power - should be held responsible, our correspondent says.

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