Nayfa Abu Imsaa'id, 25, and her friend were tending to some goats in an an area just east of the central Gaza town of Dair al-Balah on Monday when she was killed, family members told Aljazeera.net.

According to Sulaiman Abu Amra, a Palestinian medic of the Shuhada' al-Aqsa Hospital in Dair al-Balah, Abu Imsaa'id was shot in the shoulder with a high velocity bullet which penetrated her heart, killing her immediately.  

A spokesman for the Israeli army told Aljazeera.net that after soldiers saw the two women near the fence, soldiers stationed near the border fired two warning shots. The army confirmed that the woman was killed as a result, adding that an investigation was under way.       

Abu Imsa'id's death is the second civilian killing near Gaza's border fence in less than two weeks. On 27 January, an eight-year-old girl, Aya al-Astal, was killed after being shot four times -twice in the neck - by Israeli soldiers stationed just outside the border. A Palestinian ambulance found her bullet-riddled body hours after the incident. 

Army argument

"They have no mercy for any human who lives there, even though it is clearly a Palestinian area. It is their home.  But they shoot at anyone anyway, and this has happened time and again"

Yasir Abu Imsaa'id,
cousin of the deceased

Israeli forces say the nature and number of threats to the border makes distinguishing between woman, child and gunman difficult.

Avichai Adroa'ee, an army spokesman, said: "There are dozens of attempts to infiltrate into Israel and plant bombs near the fence, night and day, and we have a problem trying to figure out who is trying to do this and who is not, and naturally this is why soldiers are quick to shoot and why the shots are sometimes lethal."

Asked why soldiers do not use night-vision goggles or binoculars, the spokesman said: "There are always warning shots first.  Sometimes these warning shots hurt people. This matter is under investigation."

No threat

Palestinian security sources say Imsaa'id was more than 500m away at the time of the incident and posed no threat to Israeli troops.  

Family members told Aljazeera.net Nayfa was tending her goats and taking a stroll with a friend at the time. 

Yasir Abu Imsaa'id, Nayfa's cousin, told Aljazeera.net: "Just before the afternoon prayer, she and her friend went outside for a stroll. They were taking a walk near their goats, when suddenly they were fired at from the east, beyond the border.

"Anyone that gets near that area, even as far as 1 kilometre away, is shot at immediately, suspicious or not. They have no mercy for any human who lives there, even though it is clearly a Palestinian area. It is their home. But they shoot at anyone anyway, and this has happened time and again," said Yasir.  

"She was a peaceful young woman who kept to herself. May God accept her soul."