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Medics: Israeli gunfire kills 1 in Gaza

Dec. 28, 2010 7:11 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 30, 2010 9:59 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (AFP) -- Israeli gunfire and tank shelling killed a Palestinian militant and wounded five other people east of Khan Younis in Gaza on Tuesday, a Palestinian medical source and witnesses told AFP.

Adham Abu Selmiya, a spokesman for the Hamas-run medical services in Gaza, and hospital officials named the dead man as 22-year-old Hassan Abu Rok Qadeeh.

Witnesses told AFP Qadeeh was a member of the Popular Resistance Committees, a coalition of Palestinian factions that has claimed responsibility for a barrage of mortar fire into Israel in recent weeks.

The group released a statement hailing his "martyrdom" in "Zionist shelling east of Khan Younis."

A Israeli army spokeswoman said "our soldiers, with air support, opened fire on members of a terrorist cell that was trying to place an explosive device near the security barrier" separating Gaza from Israel.

Tensions have been rising on Gaza's border with Israel over continued rocket fire into Israel and retaliatory and often deadly Israeli air raids.

Since the beginning of the month, at least 14 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops, according to an AFP count. Two Palestinians were also killed on December 10 when an unexploded tank shell detonated.

The Israeli military said on Tuesday that approximately 37 rockets and other projectiles have been fired from Gaza since December 1.

In recent weeks, both sides have ramped up their rhetoric, warning that an escalation could result in full-blown war.

The renewed tensions come just two years after Israel launched the devastating Operation Cast Lead in response to rocket fire from Gaza.

The war, which ended in a ceasefire on January 18, 2009, killed 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 13 Israelis, 10 of them soldiers.

On Sunday, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, one of the militant groups operating in Gaza, said it was prepared for a new war with Israel.

"The occupation will pay the price if they even think of carrying out an escalation in the Gaza Strip," Abu Ahmed told mourners at the funerals of two comrades killed in a exchange of fire with Israeli troops.

And a day earlier, a spokesman for Hamas's military also touted the group's preparedness for conflict with Israel, hinting they possessed a secret weapon, about which he provided no details.

"There is a truce in effect in the field ... But if there is any Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip we will respond strongly," said a masked spokesman who identified himself as Abu Obeideh.

On Monday, Israeli army chief of staff Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi said his troops were ready for a new confrontation if it became necessary.

"Two years after Operation Cast Lead the situation in the Gaza Strip is different and calmer," he said.

"Yet, sadly, from time to time, rockets and mortar shells are fired at the Israeli home front. We will not accept this ... We hope that the security situation in the south does not deteriorate. However, the IDF is preparing for any scenario."
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