GAZA, (Reuters) – Israeli forces killed two Palestinians in Gaza on Thursday including a civilian, witnesses said, as fresh clashes erupted a day after some of the fiercest fighting in the coastal strip in months.
The latest violence has further dimmed any chance that peace talks might resume between Israel and the Palestinians.
Relatives said the dead civilian, a 75-year-old man, was killed when he went onto the balcony of his home in the northern town of Beit Hanoun to take his disabled son inside. He was shot in the head by Israeli troops on a rooftop, they said.
The Israeli army said its forces operating in Beit Hanoun were only targeting militants.
“We have no knowledge of such an incident at the moment,” an Israeli army spokeswoman said.
Witnesses said the second Palestinian, a militant, was killed in fighting with Israeli troops in Beit Hanoun.
Israeli forces backed by tanks and aircraft killed nine Palestinians including at least five militants on Wednesday around Beit Hanoun. One Israeli soldier was also killed.
Troops entered northern Gaza before dawn on Wednesday in an operation the government said was aimed at destroying sites used to fire rockets at Israel and dismantling what it called “terror infrastructure”.
The raid is one of the biggest since Israel launched an offensive in Gaza to press for the release of a soldier captured by Palestinian gunmen on June 25 in a cross-border raid and to halt the militant rocket fire.
Despite the Israeli operation, militants have fired a series of homemade rockets at the Israeli border town of Sderot from northern Gaza in recent days. At least two rockets were fired on Thursday, Israeli media said. There were no injuries.
Some 280 Palestinians have been killed in the four-month-old Israeli offensive in Gaza, about half of them civilians. Three Israeli soldiers have been killed.
Israel withdrew its army and Jewish settlers from Gaza last year after a 38-year occupation, but tension increased along the frontier when Hamas took office and rebuffed Western demands to recognise Israel.