Sat Nov 25, 2006 5:44 AM ET
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli soldiers clashed with Palestinian gunmen in the
northern Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing one militant, hospital officials
In a separate incident overnight, an unidentified Palestinian was shot dead by
Israeli troops while approaching the strategic Karni border crossing.
The fresh violence came amid signs of further trouble in unity government
talks between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Prime Minister
Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.
Senior Palestinian officials said Abbas had planned to announce on Saturday
that he was naming a U.S.-trained academic, Mohammad Shbair, to replace
Haniyeh as prime minister.
But Haniyeh has refused to step aside until a final agreement on a unity
government is reached.
The talks have bogged down in part over Hamas's insistence on heading the
Interior Ministry, which controls several major Palestinian security services.
Palestinian officials said Abbas was expected to meet with U.S. Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice during her visit to Jordan next week. It is unclear if
Abbas will also meet with President Bush.
Palestinians hope a unity government deal will prompt Washington to end its
economic embargo of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.
Early on Saturday, Israeli forces fought militants east of the Gaza town of
Beit Lahiya, part of an army push to stop Palestinian militants from firing
rockets into nearby Israeli cities.
A 23-year-old member of the militant group Islamic Jihad was shot dead by the
soldiers, Palestinian hospital officials said. Witnesses said the militant was
shot after firing a rocket-propelled grenade at the troops.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said soldiers operating in the area fired at two
militants who had approached them and identified hitting one. It was not
immediately clear if it was the same incident.
The army spokeswoman also confirmed an incident near Karni late Friday night
in which soldiers opened fire at three men, hitting one of them. It was
unclear if the man was armed.
Israel began an offensive in the Gaza Strip in June after Palestinian
militants from Gaza captured an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid.
An estimated 402 Palestinians, about half of them militants, have been killed
since the offensive began, say Palestinian hospital officials.
Palestinian factions in Gaza earlier this week had offered to stop firing
rockets if Israel halted military action in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
But the Popular Resistance Committees, an umbrella militant group, said it
would not agree to end rocket attacks.
"We will not stop firing rockets and we will not stop other forms of
resistance," the group said in a statement in which it urged militants to
Israel had also rejected the offer, saying militants must first stop all
(Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem and Wafa Amr in
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