IDF Soldier Killed in Gaza; IDF Kills Armed Palestinian in West Bank

PM: Gaza terrorists are enemies of future hopes between us and the Palestinians; 2 IDF soldiers hurt.

Israel Defense Forces troops on Thursday afternoon killed an armed Palestinian who had opened fire at troops manning a West Bank checkpoint, several hours after an IDF soldier was killed in a clash with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Military sources reported that the armed Palestinian drove a car up to the checkpoint, east of the West Bank town of Tul Karm, and stopped the vehicle approximately 20 meters from the soldiers stationed there. He then exited the car and opened fire on the Israeli troops with his Kalashnikov assault rifle. The soldiers manning the checkpoint returned fire, killing him.

The IDF soldiers sustained no injuries.

An investigation of the attacker's body revealed that he had not been wearing an explosives beld, as authorities had earlier believed. However, three small explosives were found in the vehicle, apparently intended to be hurled at soldiers.

Earlier, on Thursday morning, an IDF soldier was killed and two were lightly wounded when a bomb exploded near them in the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.

The soldier was named as Arbel Reich, 21, from Yuvalim in the in the western Galilee.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed Israel would continue to fight the militants in Gaza, where Israel has stepped up incursions to isolate Hamas' rulers who have refused to take measures to prevent gunmen under their rule from firing rockets at Israel.

"The terrorists in Gaza are the enemies of the future hopes between us and the Palestinians," Olmert said.

Palestinian witnesses said Thursday that approximately 10 tanks and two bulldozers backed by helicopters had moved before dawn about 500 meters into farming fields near the Palestinian camp.

Hamas's armed wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, said its militants ambushed the IDF troops as they entered the camp.

When the militants approached the troops, an Israel Air Force aircraft fired on them and identified hitting them, IDF sources said. Hamas sources said two Palestinians were wounded, both members of the Islamic Jihad militant group.

The operation continued late into Thursday morning, and Israel Radio reported that the IDF arrested dozens of Palestinians and brought them into Israel for questioning.

Hamas said the militants who ambushed the IDF troops detonated previously planted explosive devices and then opened fire with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns.

One soldier was critically wounded during the ensuing gunfight, and later died while receiving treatment at the site, Army Radio reported.

The wounded soldiers were evacuated from the scene and brought to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva.

Later, Hamas said its militants fired two RPG launchers at an IDF bulldozer, setting it on fire. Military sources said no damage was caused.

An IDF spokeswoman said forces were operating in the area to "foil terrorist actions." She added that troops had identified hitting a number of people and that they were still in the area.

Islamic Jihad said it fired a Qassam rocket during the operation toward the southern town of Sderot, but no injuries were immediately reported.

An IDF raid into the same area last week killed 11 Palestinians, including nine Hamas militants. Israel has carried out numerous incursions into the Gaza Strip since Hamas defeated its Fatah movement rivals and seized the territory by force last month.

The last time an IDF soldier was killed during fighting in Gaza was in November 2006.