idf tank aiming at YOU 248 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
A Palestinian fighter died in a clash with Israeli troops and IAF aircraft struck two targets in Gaza early Monday as mediators tried to firm up a long-term Gaza cease-fire a day before Israelis go to the polls in a national election.
Islamic Jihad said in a statement faxed to reporters that one of its fighters was killed overnight in an Israeli air strike. The IDF said troops spotted an armed terrorist trying to cross the Gaza-Israel border late Sunday and opened fire, after which an explosive belt he was wearing detonated.
Initial reports from Palestinian health officials had identified the man as a farmer and said he was killed by a tank shell.
The IAF struck two positions in the territory early Monday in retaliation for rocket fire from Gaza on Sunday. No injuries were reported in the aerial attacks.
Separately, a Navy gunboat fired a shell in the direction of a Palestinian fishing boat off the northern Gaza coast, Palestinian officials said. The IDF said the boat had strayed beyond limits Israel has set for fishermen, and that the gunfire was meant as a deterrent. Palestinian officials said rescue crews were on their way to the fishing boat to determine if there were any casualties.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian Al-Gomhuria newspaper reported on Monday morning that an Israel-Hamas truce agreement was expected to be signed within the next 48 hours.
The paper said the deal would consist of two stages. Firstly, unwritten understandings according to which an interim cease-fire between the two sides would be secured, followed by a written agreement which would lead to a comprehensive truce for at least a year.
According the report, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar was due to arrive in Cairo with a positive response to the Egyptian truce proposals, adding that Turkey was also involved in the cease-fire efforts.
However, Palestinian officials in Damascus said that Hamas was opposed to Israel's conditions for an 18-month cease-fire. The officials told BBC Arabic that Hamas would offer a month-long truce in exchange for a partial opening of the Gaza crossings.
In related news, according to two "credible" Palestinian sources quoted by Al-Quds al-Arabi on Monday, Israel had agreed to free all Palestinian prisoners demanded by Hamas, apart from four, in exchange for captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.
The four are: Abbas el-Sayid - Hamas's Tulkarm commander convicted of planning the 2002 Pessah suicide bombing at Netanya's Park Hotel; Abdullah Barghouti - behind numerous terror attacks including suicide bombings at Jerusalem's Sbaro restaurant and Moment cafÃ©; Ibrahim Hamed - who planned attacks including bombings at the capital's Hebrew University and Zion Square; and Ahmed Sadat - secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who is suspected of involvement in the murder of tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi in 2001. The London-based newspaper said that Turkish mediators promised Hamas to try and convince Israel to release the four.
Yaakov Lappin and Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.