GAZA, (Reuters) – Israeli soldiers clashed with Palestinian gunmen in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing one militant, hospital officials said.
In a separate incident overnight, an unidentified Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli troops while approaching the strategic Karni border crossing.
The fresh violence came amid signs of further trouble in unity government talks between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.
Senior Palestinian officials said Abbas had planned to announce on Saturday that he was naming a U.S.-trained academic, Mohammad Shbair, to replace Haniyeh as prime minister. But Haniyeh has refused to step aside until a final agreement on a unity government is reached.
The talks have bogged down in part over Hamas’s insistence on heading the Interior Ministry, which controls several major Palestinian security services.
Palestinian officials said Abbas was expected to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit to Jordan next week. It is unclear if Abbas will also meet with U.S. President George W. Bush.
Palestinians hope a unity government deal will prompt Washington to end its economic embargo of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.
Early on Saturday, Israeli forces fought militants east of the Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, part of an army push to stop Palestinian militants from firing rockets into nearby Israeli cities.
A 23-year-old member of the militant group Islamic Jihad was shot dead by the soldiers, Palestinian hospital officials said. Witnesses said the militant was shot after firing a rocket-propelled grenade at the troops.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said soldiers operating in the area fired at two militants who had approached them and identified hitting one. It was not immediately clear if it was the same incident.
The army spokeswoman also confirmed an incident near Karni late Friday night in which soldiers opened fire at three men, hitting one of them. It was unclear if the man was armed.
Israel began an offensive in the Gaza Strip in June after Palestinian militants from Gaza captured an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid.
An estimated 402 Palestinians, about half of them militants, have been killed since the offensive began, say Palestinian hospital officials.
Palestinian factions in Gaza earlier this week had offered to stop firing rockets if Israel halted military action in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
But the Popular Resistance Committees, an umbrella militant group, said it would not agree to end rocket attacks.
“We will not stop firing rockets and we will not stop other forms of resistance,” the group said in a statement in which it urged militants to increase attacks.
Israel had also rejected the offer, saying militants must first stop all “terror activities.”