Israelis 'kill Hamas commander' in Gaza exchange of fire

Residents from the south and activists from the right-wing Im Tirtzu organization block trucks entering Gaza through the Kerem Shalom Crossing

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A fresh wave of fighting erupted between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, leaving an Israeli soldier and seven Palestinians dead, just as Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers had appeared to be making progress toward ratcheting down months of border violence.

The Israeli military said in a statement: "During an IDF (Israel Defence Forces) Special Forces operational activity in the Gaza Strip, an exchange of fire evolved."

Sirens later sounded in communities across southern Israel and rockets were fired from Gaza, without causing harm.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008, but both sides have shown that they want to avoid another full scale conflict.

Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesperson for Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the blockaded Gaza Strip, denounced a "cowardly Israeli attack".

Palestinians said an Israeli unit travelling in a civilian vehicle had killed the Hamas commander.

It was announced on Sunday night that the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, would cut short his visit to Paris and return home because of the fighting.

Hamas accused Israel of sabotaging an emerging ceasefire agreement that was brokered by Egypt and supported by Qatar.

An explosion is seen during Israeli air strikes in Gaza October 27, 2018. An Israeli soldier was killed and another seriously wounded in the clashes.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rushed back to Israel on Monday, hours after an Israeli army officer and seven Palestinians, including a local Hamas commander, were killed after an incursion by Israeli special forces into the Gaza Strip.

Gaza's Health Ministry reported the slain Palestinians were: Hamas commander Nour al-Din Muhammad Salama Baraka, 37; Mohammed Majid Mousa Al-Qara, 23; Alaa al-Din Muhammad Qwaider, 22; Mustafa Hassan Mohammed Abu Odeh, 21; Mahmoud Attallah Musabeh 25, and Alaa Fawzi Mohammed Fseifes, 19. One Israeli soldier has been killed.

Israel's military later said the operation had ended.

Since March 30, thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have gathered at weekly protests along the Israeli border to demand a lifting of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.

Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu defended his decision to allow the transfer of the Qatari money, rejecting criticism that the move had strengthened Hamas.

A total of $90 million is to be distributed in six monthly instalments, Gaza authorities said, primarily to cover salaries of officials working for Hamas.

The IDF team was able to make the unsafe trek back to Israeli territory and successfully extract Lt. -Col.

The Gulf emirate has also started buying additional fuel for Gaza's sole power station, allowing outages to be reduced to their lowest level in years.

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