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Israel Soldier Killed In Clash With Palestinian Militant At Gaza Border

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ISRAEL SOLDIER KILLED
An Israeli soldier stands on a tank on Israel's border with Gaza in southern Israel, Sunday, April 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov) | AP

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A gunbattle along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on Friday killed a Palestinian militant and an Israeli soldier, the military said, in the latest flare-up along the volatile frontier.

The Israeli military said the Palestinian militant cut through the border fence separating Hamas-run Gaza from southern Israel and opened fire on troops, killing one soldier. Israeli forces killed the militant in the ensuing shootout, said Col. Tal Hermoni.

The border has been mostly calm since the last escalation in March, but shootouts such as Friday's and other violence raise concerns of a new flare-up between Israel and Gaza-based militants.

Also Friday, Israeli airstrikes hit a car in Gaza, killing one person and seriously wounding two more, said Gaza health official Adham Abu Salmia.

A Palestinian militant group called the Popular Resistance Committees said the men in the vehicle were group members returning from a training camp when their car was struck. The Israeli military said the strikes were in response to two rockets launched Friday from Gaza that landed in southern Israel, causing no damage or injuries.

No group took responsibility for Friday's border shooting, but in a text message sent to journalists the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad welcomed the attack. It identified the militant as Ahmad Nassar and called him the "martyr who has carried out the heroic attack."

In a statement, the military said it holds Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, "solely responsible." It identified the dead Israeli soldier as 21-year-old Staff Sgt. Netanel Moshiashvili.

Israel's border with Gaza has been relatively quiet since a three week war launched in December 2008 against the Hamas. Still, violence occasionally breaks out between militants and Israeli soldiers along the frontier.

The last round of violence took place in March after Israel killed a militant leader, setting off four days of rocket barrages from Palestinian militants and airstrikes by the Israeli military. That uptick left at least 24 Palestinians dead and disrupted the lives of about 1 million Israelis living in rocket range.

Hamas stayed out of the fighting in March, letting militants from the Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance Committees carry out the attacks.

Hamas wants to avoid a full-scale offensive against Gaza, fearing a major conflict could undermine its control of the territory it seized control of five years ago.

But Israel considers Hamas responsible for all attacks from Gaza and notes that the militant group, which refuses to renounce violence against Israel, has continued to stockpile bigger and better weapons since the war.