Palestinian gunmen storm Israeli border, try to abduct soldier
One militant killed in attack; 3 others escape
GAZA CITY -- Palestinian gunmen broke through Israel's heavily fortified Gaza border and battled troops inside Israel for about two hours yesterday in a failed attempt to abduct an Israeli soldier. One of the raiders was killed.
It was the first cross-border incursion since militants killed two soldiers and abducted a third a year ago.
The Israel military said troops shot one of the raiders to death. Palestinians said another three militants escaped back to Gaza unharmed.
The Islamic Jihad group said it carried out yesterday's attack, near the Kissufim crossing between Gaza and Israel, along with the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement.
"The aim of the operation was to withdraw with the soldier in captivity," said Abu Ahmed, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad. "But the participation of Israeli helicopters prevented that."
On June 25 last year, Palestinian militants killed two soldiers and snatched one near the Kerem Shalom frontier post, about 15 miles south of the site of yesterday's shoot-out. The abducted soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, is still missing.
A five-month truce between the Gaza militants and Israel collapsed in May when a string of Palestinian rocket attacks into southern Israel triggered Israeli air strikes in response.
The Six-Day War of 1967 ended 40 years ago today. Palestinians and foreign activists held a rally at Israel's West Bank separation barrier north of Jerusalem yesterday to protest four decades of Israeli control. "We tell the world that 40 years of occupation is enough," said Allam Jarar, 56, a protester.
When Israel won the 1967 war, it took control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip . Over time, policing them became the army's primary pursuit, which some military analysts say has divided the energies of the Israeli forces.
Last July, Hezbollah guerrillas crossed into Israel and ambushed a patrol along the Lebanon border, igniting last summer's conflict . At the time, the Israeli army was fighting militants in the West Bank and Gaza.
Abbas and the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, had been scheduled to meet in the West Bank last week , but the Palestinians called off the meeting .
Israel will talk only to Abbas, shunning the Palestinian government headed by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, a group behind the deaths of scores of Israelis . Hamas has shrugged off demands that it renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist, but a senior official yesterday took what appeared to be a softer line, saying only that Palestinians seek a state in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem.
"Now there is one team, one program, one united government," Moussa Abu Marzouk, a deputy to Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, said in an interview published yesterday in the Hamas-linked Palestine newspaper.