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Israeli airstrike kills militant in Gaza

February 03, 2009|Associated Press

GAZA CITY — A missile from an Israeli aircraft struck a car in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday, killing a Palestinian militant and further straining a truce.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, one of three candidates to become prime minister in Feb. 10 elections and an architect of the Israeli onslaught in Gaza, ruled out negotiating with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

"Terror must be fought with force and lots of force," she said. "Therefore we will strike Hamas."

The strike came as Hamas sent a delegation to Egypt in hopes of reaching a long-term cease-fire after an Israeli military offensive that killed nearly 1,300 Palestinians in Gaza. The truce is being negotiated by Egyptian mediators as Israel and Hamas refuse direct talks.

A day earlier, Israel's prime minister threatened "harsh and disproportionate" retaliation for continued violations of the two sides' unilateral truces.

In Monday's airstrike, the military said it targeted a group of militants who had fired mortar shells at Israel. Palestinian medical officials said a man in the vehicle was killed, and that a second occupant and two bystanders were hurt. The airstrike took place in Rafah, on Gaza's border with Egypt. With Gaza's borders sealed by Israel and Egypt, Rafah has a bustling smuggling trade through tunnels and Israel frequently targets the area to prevent the flow of weapons into Gaza.

The fate of the border is a key sticking point in the Egyptian-mediated cease-fire talks. Israel wants an end to arms smuggling, by the stationing of international monitors on the Egyptian side of the border. Hamas wants Israel to lift its blockade and Gaza's border crossings reopened. Israel and Egypt closed the crossings, Gaza's economic lifeline, after Hamas took control of Gaza in June 2007 after a unity government with Fatah collapsed.

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