Israelis battle Gaza gunmen; 3 Palestinians dead
GAZA, Sept 2 (Reuters) Two Palestinians were killed during an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen today, while a third Palestinian was shot dead by troops near a Gaza border crossing, the army and witnesses said.
In the first incident, witnesses said Israeli troops backed by helicopters entered the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun and engaged in heavy clashes with Palestinian gunmen there.
A resident, Younis Abu Odah, told local media bullets fired during the gunfight came through his house and killed his 54-year-old father and 27-year-old brother, while also wounding two of his sisters.
It was unclear whether the bullets were fired by Israeli forces or Palestinian militants. Medics have so far been unable to reach the area to confirm any deaths or evacuate the wounded due to the heavy gunfire.
The Israeli army had no immediate comment on the reports.
At the same time, Israeli air strikes in a nearby part of Beit Hanoun wounded three Palestinians, two of them children, with shrapnel, medics said.
In the second incident, the Israeli army confirmed it had shot and killed a man as he approached the Kisufim border crossing in central Gaza, but provided no other details about the circumstances.
Israel began an offensive in Gaza in late June, after gunmen abducted an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid.
The eight-week offensive is designed to recover the captured soldier and also to prevent Palestinian militants from firing makeshift rockets from northern Gaza into Israel.
Israel has killed more than 200 Palestinians, about half of them civilians, during the latest Gaza offensive.
It pulled troops and settlers out of the territory in August last year after 38 years of occupation.
REUTERS PDM BS1247