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Palestinian militants attack Israeli army patrol near Gaza border, killing 1 soldier
A lightly injured Israeli soldier is treated near the Kissufim crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip Thursday, March 6, 2008. Palestinian militants ambushed an Israeli army patrol in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing one soldier and wounding three others, the Israeli army said. - photo by Associated Press
    KISSUFIM CROSSING, Israel — Palestinian militants ambushed an Israeli army jeep patrolling the Gaza border Thursday and then attacked a rescue crew that rushed to the scene, killing one soldier in a brazen attack, the military and witnesses said.
    A rocket fired from Gaza after nightfall exploded on a house in the battered Israeli town of Sderot, setting it on fire and wounding at least one person, rescue workers and police said. It was the second rocket to hit a house in Sderot on Thursday.
    Senior Israeli military officers held an emergency meeting to plot a response to the latest attacks, which came two days after Israel ended an offensive that Palestinians officials say killed more than 120 in Gaza. The Israeli operation came in response to Palestinians militants barraging southern Israel with rockets.
    The killing of the soldier brought the Israeli toll in the fighting to four dead since last week. Three soldiers were wounded in the attack, one of them seriously, the army said.
    Palestinian witnesses said a large explosion tore through the jeep on the Israeli side of the border fence near the Kissufim crossing into central Gaza. Several other army vehicles and an army helicopter came under fire when they arrived to rescue the wounded, the witnesses said. Military officials said a bomb had been set off next to the jeep.
    Hamas and the smaller militant group Islamic Jihad jointly claimed responsibility for the ambush. Islamic Jihad said the attack was revenge for an Israeli strike Wednesday that killed one of the group’s commanders in southern Gaza. Hamas, the larger militant group that rules Gaza, said its men also participated in the attack.
    ‘‘The soldier was killed on our side of the border when he was patrolling. We have no doubt that the terrorists continue to pose a threat and we will act to protect our territory,’’ Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said. He did not say how Israel would respond.
    Israeli forces attacked a rocket-launching site in northern Gaza, killing one militant, Palestinian medics said. The army said it had carried out an airstrike on a launching site.
    Israel withdrew its ground forces from northern Gaza on Tuesday, leaving a wide scene of destruction. Palestinian medical officials say more than half of the dead in Gaza were civilians. Israel accuses Hamas militants of using civilians for cover.
    Moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, under pressure from visiting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, agreed Wednesday to resume peace talks with Israel. He had suspended the talks Sunday over the Gaza carnage.
    Hamas seized Gaza by force from Abbas’ Fatah forces last June and he has little influence over the territory now.
    Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the talks would resume next Thursday, when U.S. Lt. Gen. William Fraser III is expected to hold his first joint meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials. Fraser was recently appointed to monitor compliance with the U.S.-backed ‘‘road map’’ peace plan, which sets out a phased process for establishing an independent Palestinian state.
    Israel has been negotiating since November with Abbas, who rules from the West Bank. It also has been battling Hamas in Gaza, where Israel has imposed a painful economic embargo.
    Egypt on Thursday pushed officials from Hamas and Islamic Jihad to accept a truce with Israel that would involve halting rocket attacks, Egyptian security officials said.
    None of the participants reported immediate progress.
    ‘‘There cannot be talk of a calm while daily aggression continues,’’ said Ayman Taha, a Hamas leader who participated in the talks.
    A coalition of eight British human rights groups said the humanitarian situation in Gaza was at its worst point since Israel captured the territory in 1967. Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005.
    Israel’s Defense Ministry rejected the report, blaming Hamas for the hardships and saying medicine and other humanitarian supplies continue to flow into Gaza.
    In Geneva, Muslim countries called on the top U.N. rights body to condemn Israel’s strikes in Gaza.
    The draft resolution, put forward by Pakistan and supported by the 15 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference on the council, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, expressed shock at the ‘‘collective punishment against the civilian population, which constitute a war crime.’’
    It also called for Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets into Israel.

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