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Israel soldier killed by Palestinian gunfire on Gaza border: army

JERUSALEM (AFP) - 

An Israeli soldier was shot dead by Palestinian gunfire on the Gaza border Friday, the army said, raising fears of a new conflict with the strip's Islamist rulers Hamas.

The soldier was shot by a "terrorist squad" along the border, the army said in a statement, with the military retaliating with air strikes.

It said he was a combat soldier but did not give his name or rank.

He was the first Israeli killed since Palestinian protests were launched on the border with the Jewish state on March 30.

At least 149 Palestinians have since been killed, mostly shot during demonstrations and clashes along the border, but others in Israeli air strikes or by tank fire.

Israel has long accused Hamas of seeking to use the protests as a pretext for carrying out attacks.

Friday's incident took place at the border near southern Gaza, with the Israeli army carrying out extensive strikes in retaliation.

Spokesman Jonathan Conricus told journalists the shooting was something the army "cannot tolerate".

Three Hamas fighters were killed in the retaliatory strikes, while a fourth Palestinian was shot in protests on the border.

Three rockets were later launched from Gaza at Israel, the army said.

"We have been conducting significant airstrikes against several Hamas targets all over the Gaza Strip," Conricus said.

© 2018 AFP