IDF confirms killing Islamic Jihad gunman in Gaza
Army says militant was killed after he was spotted trying to cross border into Israel wearing an explosives belt.
An Islamic Jihad militant died in a clash with Israel Defense Forces troops and Israel Air Force jets struck two targets in Gaza early Monday as mediators tried to firm up a long-term Gaza cease-fire a day before Israelis go to the polls in a national election.
Islamic Jihad said in a statement faxed to reporters that one of its fighters was killed overnight in an Israeli airstrike. The IDF said troops spotted an armed militant trying to cross the Gaza-Israel border late Sunday and opened fire, after which a bomb belt he was wearing detonated.
Islamic Jihad had earlier said the man killed was on a mission to attack an Israeli patrol along the border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the Islamic Jihad group said.
The IDF denied that tank fire or strikes of any kind were carried out around the time of the man's death, and the circumstances of the incident remained unclear.
Islamic Jihad said the Palestinian killed near the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun belonged to its armed wing and that he was part of a squad that had planned to attack Israeli troops along the frontier.
Earlier on Monday, the Israel Air Force hit two Hamas positions in Gaza in response to rocket attacks on Israel launched by militants in the coastal strip on the preceding day, the army said.
The violence coincided with stepped-up efforts by the two sides to anchor a shaky cease-fire that ended Israel's three-week offensive against Hamas in Gaza last month.
On Sunday, Palestinian militants fired two rockets into Israel from Gaza.
"As the sole authority in the Gaza Strip, Hamas bears full responsibility for all terror activities originating within its area of control," the army said in a communique it released after the IAF strikes.
Palestinian officials identified the targets as a Hamas security compound in southern Gaza that had already been struck three times during Israel's recently ended Gaza offensive and a rocket-launching pad in a field in northern Gaza.
Separately, an Israel Navy gunboat fired a shell in the direction of a Palestinian fishing boat off the northern Gaza coast, Palestinian officials said.
The military said the boat had strayed beyond limits Israel has set for fishermen, and that the gunfire was meant as a deterrent.
Palestinian officials said rescue crews were on their way to the fishing boat to determine if there were any casualties.
The IDF is continuing to issue pinpoint and limited responses to Gaza rocket fire in order not to harm ongoing talks in Cairo over the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
More than 35 Qassam rockets, mortar shells, and Grad missiles have been fired at Israel since the cease-fire took effect over two weeks ago, the IDF said.