October 23, 2012 - 12:00am

JERUSALEM, Oct 23 (Reuters) - An Israeli officer was severely wounded on Tuesday when a bomb went off beside an army patrol along the border with the Gaza Strip, a military spokeswoman said.

The attack came hours before the Emir of Qatar arrived in Gaza in the first visit by a head of state to the blockaded enclave since it was taken over in 2007 by the Iranian-backed Islamist Hamas movement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will deliver a strong response to the attack. "We will fight and we will hit them very, very hard," Netanyahu said.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the attack that an Israeli military statement said was carried out against soldiers on a "routine patrol adjacent to the security fence in the central Gaza Strip".

The wounded officer was evacuated by helicopter to hospital, the statement added.

Israel on Monday killed two Palestinian militants, one of them a Hamas gunman.

Although Hamas is hostile to Israel, it has regularly sought to stay out of recent cross-border confrontations as it shores up its Gaza rule in the face of more radical challengers and reaches out to potential Arab allies abroad. (Aditional reporting by Nudal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Maayan Lubell; editing by Crispian Balmer)


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