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Gaza truck bomber attacks key Israel crossing

An explosives-laden truck driven by a Palestinian suicide bomber blew up on Thursday near an Israeli border crossing with the Gaza Strip but only the attacker was killed in a blast heard 30 kilometers (18 miles) away.
/ Source: Reuters

An explosives-laden truck driven by a Palestinian suicide bomber blew up on Thursday near an Israeli border crossing with the Gaza Strip but only the attacker was killed in a blast heard 30 kilometers (18 miles) away.

Israeli media reports said soldiers fired at the vehicle as it approached Erez Crossing. An army spokeswoman said it had exploded on the Palestinian side of the frontier, blowing out windows in nearby buildings.

The spokeswoman said two other men involved in the attack were hit when two missiles launched from an Israeli helicopter destroyed their getaway vehicle. But Islamic Jihad said the men had managed to leap from their vehicle before it was struck.

The spokeswoman said there were no Israeli casualties.

Claims of responsibility
A spokesman for Islamic Jihad said it had carried out the attack in cooperation with the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's more secular Fatah faction.

Abu Ahmed, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad's armed wing, said the truck was carrying four tones of explosives. He identified the suicide bomber as 23-year-old Ibrahim Nasser from Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip.

The Islamist Hamas group, which controls the Gaza Strip, said the vehicle was driven by a suicide bomber under cover of heavy early morning fog and that he was accompanied by gunmen who opened fire at the crossing before the explosion.

Israel has heavily restricted the movement of Palestinian people and goods through its border crossings with Gaza since Hamas seized the territory from Fatah in fighting last June.

In Egyptian-mediated talks on a truce between Israel and Palestinian militant groups, Hamas has demanded the crossings be re-opened in return for a cessation of violence that has threatened to undermine Abbas's peace talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

"Resistance is strong and we are not begging for calm," Abu Ahmed said after the attack.

Israeli and Gaza Strip residents living up to 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Erez Crossing reported hearing the blast.

63-year-old killed in raid
Separately, but at the time of the bombing, Israeli troops raided a village in the central Gaza Strip and shot dead a 63-year-old man, medical workers and Hamas said.

An Israeli military spokesman had no immediate information on the incident. Israel frequently carries out raids and air strikes in the Gaza Strip as part of what it describes as efforts to curb cross-border rocket fire.

Cease-fire talks between Egyptian and Hamas officials in Cairo ended inconclusively on Wednesday.