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Israeli army: Soldier hit by 'friendly fire'

Dec. 12, 2010 9:36 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 14, 2010 9:25 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- A soldier wounded in a firefight on the Gaza border in which two Palestinians were killed late on Saturday was hit by so-called "friendly fire," the Israeli military said Sunday.

"According to preliminary findings, an Israeli force operating in the area spotted Palestinians who were approaching the fence. There was an exchange of fire and a soldier was wounded by one of his comrades," a spokeswoman said.

Earlier the military said that a soldier had been wounded, but did not say how.

Soldiers spotted the two Palestinians near the security barrier separating Israel from Hamas-controlled Gaza and opened fire, killing them after a gun battle lasting some 20 minutes, an army spokesman said.

"During searches at the scene, shots were fired at the force, apparently resulting in the injury of one of the soldiers," an army statement said. Israeli soldiers fired back. There were no further casualties on their side.

The wounded soldier was evacuated by helicopter.

Palestinian witnesses told AFP they saw armed men exchange fire with soldiers before two Israeli tanks and two armored troop carriers entered about 100 meters into the Palestinian enclave.

Clashes along the barrier dividing Israel and the Gaza Strip have increased in past weeks, and the military says there have been about 100 "terror-related incidents" there since the beginning of the year.

On December 2, two fighters from Islamic Jihad were killed as they approached the border.

Israel's military commander Gaby Ashkenazi has said the security situation along the border remains fragile, with the army saying armed Palestinian groups are equipped with anti-tank rockets.
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