NABLUS, West Bank, (Reuters) – Israeli troops killed a top militant commander in the West Bank on Thursday, while Palestinian fighters in Gaza renewed rocket attacks that had largely stopped during Israel’s Lebanon war.
There were no reports of casualties from the rocket barrage.
While a truce has halted fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, violence between the Jewish state and Palestinian militants shows no sign of subsiding.
During a raid in the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, Israeli soldiers shot dead Fadi Khafisha of the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, part of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah group, Palestinian security sources said.
Khafisha was known for helping plan suicide bombings in Israel, they said.
Israeli soldiers shot him in the Old City of Nablus. Another senior militant was among five people wounded in an exchange of fire, the security sources said.
An army spokeswoman said the gunmen fired first. She said troops shot one of them but could not confirm Khafisha’s death.
From Gaza, militants launched makeshift rockets at southern Israeli towns, the first barrage fired in weeks, the army said.
Up to seven hit the border town of Sderot. Another landed in the city of Ashkelon.
“After a period of calm we woke up this morning to explosions. The house next to ours sustained a direct hit and a shed caught fire,” resident Mordechai Omeed in Sderot told the YNet News Web site.
The barrage came one day after Abbas, a moderate, urged militants in Gaza to stop firing what he called “pointless rockets” which he said harmed the interests of Palestinians.
Abbas made the comments before travelling to Gaza for talks with leaders of the ruling Hamas Islamist movement on trying to create a unity government.
An Israeli security chief said this week that Palestinian militants may have been emboldened after Hezbollah fired nearly 4,000 rockets at northern Israel and killed scores of troops in ground fighting during the 34-day war.
Israel launched an offensive in Gaza in late June that has reduced the rocket fire and the fresh barrage could trigger a tough response.
Earlier on Thursday, Israeli troops pulled out of the Shijaiya district of Gaza, a militant stronghold, after six days of fighting in the area.
Israel has killed more than 200 Palestinians, about half of them civilians, during the offensive in Gaza, which was initially launched to try to free a soldier abducted on June 25 by militants including members of Hamas.
Israel had pulled troops and settlers out of Gaza last year after 38 years of occupation.