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Aide to Israeli Cabinet Minister Shot in Palestinian Attack

An aide to an Israeli cabinet minister has been shot and wounded by a Palestinian gunman. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, a foreign delegation was shot at while touring an observation point overlooking the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter took a delegation of Canadian Jewish leaders to an army observation post to get a firsthand look at the tense situation on the Gaza border. And a firsthand look is what they got. Palestinian gunmen in the Gaza Strip opened fire on the group, causing confusion and panic.

Moshe Ronen, a Jew from Canada, was in the group.

"We're obviously a little bit shaken, but we'll survive," said Ronen.

Ronen told Israel Radio that Dichter was explaining the tense border situation when shots rang out.

"He also pointed out that particular observatory point had not ever been fired upon, and maybe 30 seconds after that, live fire started and within a few seconds I was lying on the ground with him," he said. "On top of us were the Secret Service protecting the minister."

One of the Cabinet minister's senior aides was shot and moderately wounded. No one else was hurt.

Ronen said the shooting lasted for about 15 minutes, until troops from the Israeli Defense Forces brought the situation under control.

"The IDF returned fire and that's when the shooting stopped," he said. "And we were evacuated after about an hour."

Several Palestinian militant groups claimed responsibility for the attack including Hamas, which rules Gaza, and two other groups inspired by al-Qaida, the Army of the Nation and Protectors of the Homeland.

Tension has escalated on the Gaza border since Hamas seized control of the Strip last June, when it defeated the rival Fatah forces of western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Mr. Abbas now heads a moderate government in the West Bank and is involved in peace talks with Israel. Hamas refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel and, with other militant groups, has been launching rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip.