Palestinian truck bomber attacks border crossing

GAZA Thu May 22, 2008 1:34pm EDT

1 of 2. Palestinians stand near a destroyed vehicle after it was hit by missiles launched from an Israeli helicopter near the Erez crossing in Gaza May 22, 2008. An explosives-laden truck driven by a Palestinian suicide bomber blew up on Thursday near an Israeli border crossing with the Gaza Strip but only the attacker was killed in a blast heard 18 miles away.

Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem

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GAZA (Reuters) - A truck laden with four tonnes of explosives blew up near an Israeli border crossing with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Thursday but only the suicide bomber was killed in the blast heard 30 km (18 miles) away.

Israeli media reports said soldiers fired at the vehicle as it approached Erez Crossing. An army spokeswoman said it had exploded on the Palestinian side of the frontier, blowing out windows in nearby buildings.

In other violence, Israeli soldiers shot and killed one Palestinian and wounded 10 others, medical workers said, after youths taking part in a Hamas rally against Gaza border closures approached Israel's Karni Crossing, medical workers said.

An Israeli army spokesman said troops shot a gunman in an exchange of fire with armed men in the crowd.

Egyptian efforts to secure a Gaza truce to end Israeli raids and cross-border rocket attacks by militants have so far been unsuccessful. Hamas said Israel's refusal to agree to reopen borders as soon as a truce goes into effect was delaying a deal.

The militant Islamic Jihad group said it carried out the Erez operation in cooperation with the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's secular Fatah group, to avenge Israeli attacks on Palestinians.

Abu Ahmed, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad's armed wing, said the truck carried four tonnes of explosives. He identified the suicide bomber as 23-year-old Ibrahim Nasser from Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip.

Israeli and Gaza Strip residents living up to 30 km (18 miles) from the crossing reported hearing the blast.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said two other men involved in the attack were hit by missiles fired by an Israeli helicopter at their getaway vehicle. Islamic Jihad said the men had managed to leap from the vehicle before it was struck.

The spokeswoman said there were no Israeli casualties.

Separately, but at the time of the bombing, Israeli troops raided a village in the central Gaza Strip and shot dead a 63-year-old man, medical workers and Hamas said.

U.N. CONDEMNATION

Robert Serry, the U.N.'s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, condemned the Erez attack.

"Incidents of this kind are totally unacceptable. They also act against the interests of the population of the Gaza Strip, because aid workers and medical cases must pass through Erez," Serry said.

He also called on Israel to ensure its military "operates with care and restraint, ensuring its actions are in full conformity to international humanitarian law".

Israel tightened its restrictions on the movement of Palestinian people and goods through its border crossings with the Gaza Strip when Hamas seized the territory from Fatah in fighting last June.

An Israeli government official said Hamas, by continuing to attack "these humanitarian crossing points" was demonstrating its "complete disregard for the welfare of its own people".

(Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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