Israeli soldier killed by 'friendly fire'

Israeli forces mistakenly shoot and kill a fellow soldier while looking for three Palestinians who crossed the border from the Gaza Strip.

JERUSALEM // Israeli forces mistakenly shot and killed a fellow soldier yesterday while looking for three Palestinians who crossed the border from the Gaza Strip, the military has said. The three Palestinians crossed the heavily guarded border after sundown, the military said. Soldiers thought they were under attack and set out on a patrol to find them. Another group of soldiers looking for the Palestinians mistook the first patrol for armed Palestinian militants and fired on them, killing the soldier. After Israeli forces opened fire, Palestinian militants on the Gaza side of the border lobbed mortar shells at the soldiers, Palestinian police said.

They said Israeli attack helicopters fired at targets on the ground. No Palestinian casualties were reported. The military determined later that the three Palestinians who crossed the border were unarmed and were apparently planning to look for work in Israel. They were detained. The military appointed a colonel to investigate the "friendly fire" incident. The incident took place near the Kissufim crossing point between Israel and Gaza. Palestinian militants frequently try to infiltrate into Israel or plant explosives along the border fence, keeping tension at a high level there.

Early today, Israeli aircraft attacked a weapons storage facility in Gaza City, the military said. Palestinian health officials said two people were seriously wounded. The military said the air strike was retaliation for Palestinian rocket attacks. Ten rockets have been fired at Israel since Thursday, one killing a Thai farmworker. Militant groups opposed the Gaza's Islamic Hamas rulers have claimed responsibility for the rocket strikes. Hamas has largely refrained from such attacks since Israel's punishing offensive in Gaza 15 months ago.

However, the military said it holds Hamas responsible for all Gaza violence. * AP