Israeli soldiers trade fire with Palestinian on Gaza border

Israeli soldiers stand guard with their tank along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip near the southern Israeli kibbutz of Nahal Oz, May 2016. (AFP pic)

JERUSALEM: Israeli soldiers and a Palestinian militant exchanged gunfire on the Gaza border on Monday, the army said, despite efforts to reach a long-term truce between the two sides.

Israel also kept its only crossing for people into the blockaded Gaza Strip closed for a second day in response to weekend border clashes.

“A terrorist shot at IDF troops in the northern Gaza Strip, in response IDF troops shot towards the terrorist,” the army said in a statement, referring to the Israel Defence Forces.

No soldiers were wounded.

On Sunday, Israel had closed the Erez crossing with the Gaza Strip except for humanitarian cases after weekend border clashes.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli defence ministry unit that oversees the passage said that Erez remained closed on Monday and would be so “until further notice”.

The closure and border incidents occurred despite attempts by Egypt and UN officials to reach a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip.

The two sides have fought three wars since 2008.

Israel has enforced an air, land and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip for more than a decade, but grants permission to a limited number of people to cross for various reasons.

An average of around 1,000 Gazans cross through Erez each day, mostly those in need of medical care but also businesspeople, students and others, Israeli authorities say.

Israel had just last week reopened its only goods crossing with Gaza after closing it to most deliveries for more than a month over border tensions.

Gaza’s only other border is with Egypt but the Rafah crossing with the enclave had largely been kept closed in recent years. Cairo opened it in mid-May and it has mostly remained so since.

UN officials and Egypt have been seeking to secure a long-term truce between Hamas and Israel to allow for humanitarian issues in the impoverished enclave of two million people to be addressed.

Israel is demanding calm and a return of the remains of two soldiers Hamas is believed to be holding.

Two Israeli civilians, both said to be mentally unstable, are also believed to have entered Gaza and to be held by Hamas. Israel is also seeking their return.