Israeli Forces Kill 2 Palestinians in Gaza Operations

Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinians in exchanges of fire in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, Palestinian security officials said.

One Palestinian, a policeman, opened fire on Israeli troops operating in southern Gaza, moderately wounding a soldier, the army said. Troops fired back, killing the security man and wounding a second person, the Palestinian officials added. The Palestinians later reported a second man killed by troops in the same area. The army said it was checking that report.

The dead policeman was a member of the National Security force, which is loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a spokesman said. Although the force does not normally battle Israeli troops, it appeared the policeman did not identify the armed people as soldiers, the spokesman said.

The Israeli army has been operating in Gaza since late June after Palestinian militants tunneled into Israel and captured an Israeli soldier. Its recent operations have been focused on halting the smuggling of weapons from Egypt into southern Gaza.

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Meanwhile in Berlin, the German Defense Ministry said Wednesday it is investigating an incident in which two Israeli fighter jets allegedly fired shots and dropped flares near a German warship patrolling the Lebanese coast as part of a peacekeeping force.

German officials said the planes — two F-16s — fired two shots and released the flares, which can be used as a defense measure against heat-seeking missiles, said a ministry spokesman. He did not identify the vessel.

Israeli officials deny that the jets fired shots at the German ship.

The Israeli Defense Ministry said in a statement that Defense Minister Amir Peretz spoke by telephone Wednesday evening to German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung about the reports.

"The defense minister made it clear that Israel did not fire at any German aircraft or ship," the statement said. "The defense minister told his German colleague that Israel has no intention of carrying out any offensive acts against German forces."

The Israeli military told The Associated Press that an Israeli aircraft had approached a German vessel Tuesday morning when a helicopter took off from its deck without having informed Israeli authorities in advance, but that no shots were fired.

The Israeli Defense Ministry statement said Peretz told Jung there was a need for improved coordination, both directly between Israel and the German task force and through the U.N. peacekeeping force.

A German naval task force led by the frigate Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is off the coast of Lebanon seeking to prevent weapons smuggling as part of the UNIFIL peacekeeping force set up to secure a U.N.-brokered cease-fire that ended 34 days of fighting between Israel and Lebanon-based Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon on Aug. 14.

Germany joined the peacekeeping force but did not send ground troops, in part out of worries that they might come in conflict with Israeli troops — a sensitive point given Nazi Germany's role in carrying out the Holocaust during World War II.