Israeli soldier, seven Palestinians killed in fresh Gaza fighting

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"During an (Israeli) special forces operational activity in the Gaza Strip, an exchange of fire evolved", the army said in a statement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cut short his visit to Paris following the clash in the Gaza Strip yesterday in which an IDF lieutenant-colonel was killed and another Israeli soldier was severely wounded.

But neither side appeared eager to pursue broader conflict.

The clashes prompted a wave of Israeli Air Force air strikes in Gaza, and a series of rocket attacks fired at southern Israel by Hamas and its ally, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization.

Palestinians said an Israeli unit travelling in a civilian vehicle had killed the Hamas commander. It was unclear if the other fatalities included gunmen.

A picture taken on 27 October 2018 shows a fireball exploding during Israeli air strikes in Gaza City.

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Palestinians fired 17 rockets into southern Israel late on Sunday in response to the incursion and air strikes, which Hamas, the dominant armed group in Gaza, said were meant to cover the retreat of a auto used by the Israeli troops.

Palestinian sources said the senior militant killed was Sheikh Nur Barakeh, a commander of the Izzedine al-Qassam brigades, Hamas' military wing, in Khan Younis. On Monday morning, the IDF published a clarification saying the officers operating in the Gaza Strip overnight were not there to kill or abduct Hamas operatives.

Medics and Hamas officials said at least seven people were killed, four of them militants, including Hamas commander Mr Baraka.

Last week, Israel allowed Qatar to deliver $15m in aid to Gaza's cash-strapped Hamas rulers.

Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said all Israeli soldiers involved had returned to Israel.

The $15 million in cash that entered the Gaza Strip in suitcases, mafia-style, with Israel's blessing at the weekend was just the first in several cash transfers that were negotiated under the ceasefire deal.

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But details of the raid, including the full identity of the officer killed during the mission, remained subject to military censor. Yesterday, following a ceremony to mark the centenary of the armistice ending World War One, Netanyahu attended a luncheon where he talked briefly with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, US President Donald Trump, and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel.

Israeli critics, including members of Netanyahu's hard-line coalition, accused him of capitulating to violence and of granting relief to the embattled Hamas group.

The immediate impact of the Qatar payment was for Hamas to ease border protests on Friday.

The blockade has led to over 50 per cent unemployment and chronic power outages, and prevents most Gazans from being able to leave the tiny territory.

On Sunday, Netanyahu defended his decision to allow through the Qatari cash to Gaza as a way to avert an "unnecessary war", maintain quiet for residents of southern Israel and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in the impoverished Gaza Strip.

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