GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – An Israeli air strike against a rocket squad killed a Palestinian militant Saturday, the first Gaza death since Hamas formally declared an end to a six-month truce with Israel.
Meanwhile, a boat carrying a Qatari delegation, Lebanese activists and journalists from Israel and Lebanon sailed into Gaza City’s small port in defiance of a border blockade. It was the fifth such boat trip since the summer.
Israel and Egypt closed Gaza’s borders after Hamas seized control of the territory in June 2007.
Since November, Israel has tightened the blockade to pressure Gaza militants to halt their rocket fire on Israeli border towns. However, sporadic fighting has continued, and Gaza’s Hamas rulers declared Friday that they would not continue a truce that had taken effect in June.
On Saturday, Gaza militants fired three rockets and four mortars into Israel, causing no damage, the Israeli military said. An Israeli air strike at one of the rocket squads in northern Gaza killed a militant, said the army and Palestinian medics said.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, identified the dead man as one of its fighters. Hamas said it fired the mortars.
Also Saturday, an official Arab delegation reached Gaza for the first time on the “Dignity,” a small vessel that made its fifth blockade-breaking run.
The two Qatari citizens aboard the “Dignity” are from the government-funded Qatar Authority for Charitable Activities.
“We are here to represent the Qatar government and people,» said delegation member Aed al-Kahtani. “We will look into the needs of our brothers in Gaza, and find out what is the most appropriate way to bring in (aid).”
Qatar has warm relations with Israel and Hamas. The militant group has called on Arab countries to challenge Israel by sailing to Gaza. “We hope it will be the beginning of Arab moves to break the blockade,” said Gaza’s Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, in a
Israeli naval boats blocked an earlier attempt by a Libyan cargo ship to enter Gaza.
Also on board Saturday were Israeli reporter Shlomi Eldar, a Lebanese reporter, Katya Nasser, from Arab satellite TV channel al-Jazeera, and another Lebanese citizen. Israel bars its citizens from entering Gaza, fearing for their safety. Eldar, who works for Israel’s Channel 10 TV, is the second Israeli journalist to come to Gaza by boat. He has covered the territory since 1991 and said he was trying to assess how much has changed since he was last able to visit. Israeli journalist Amira Hass, who writes for the Haaretz daily, left Gaza abruptly earlier this month, saying Hamas security officials told her they could not guarantee her safety.
The Dignity boat set sail from the Cypriot port of Larnaca on Friday, decked with colorful Palestinian and Lebanese flags. It also carried symbolic humanitarian aid. Gaza’s latest visitors are expected to stay in the territory overnight.