India-Pakistan clashes on Kashmir border leave civilians dead

A civilian, who according to local media was injured in a cross-border shelling near the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan in Poonch sector, is rushed to a hospital in Jammu, Pakistan administered Kashmir, April 1, 2019. REUTERS

New Delhi -- Seven people have been killed and 28 injured in two days of small arms fire and shelling between Indian and Pakistani forces. The renewed clashes have taken place along the de-facto border that divides the Kashmir region in half. Both of the nations claim rightful ownership of the entire area, and they've fought three wars over it already.

This week has seen the deadliest border escalation between the nuclear armed neighbors since they carried out airstrikes on each other's territory near the end of February. 

An intervention by the United States and other nations brought the two countries back from the brink of a possible full-scale war.  

Four Pakistanis and three Indians have been killed in the cross-border clashes since Monday morning. On Tuesday, three Pakistani soldiers were killed by gunfire from Indian forces. A statement by the Pakistan military said they were killed in the Rawalakot area of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. A Pakistani civilian was also killed in shooting on Monday, and five civilians were injured. 

On the Indian side, a 5-year-old girl, a woman, and a soldier of the Border Security Force (BSF) were killed on Monday. Eighteen other civilians and five soldiers were also injured. 

There were no immediate reports of casualties on the Indian side on Tuesday, but the exchange of fire was continuing in at least six areas along the unofficial border dividing Kashmir, known as the Line of Control (LoC). 

Government officials in one part of Indian Kashmir ordered all schools near the border to remain shut amid the violence.

A ceasefire has been in place since 2003 along the border, but both sides' militaries regularly exchange fire and then accuse the other side of "unprovoked ceasefire violations," usually followed by warnings of a "retaliatory response."   

U.S. aims to de-escalate Pakistan-India conflict

The cross fire incidents have increased since the February airstrikes, claiming dozens of lives and displacing scores of people from the border areas on both sides. 

The tension has escalated in recent weeks as India is just days away from a crucial national election in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a second term. 

National security issues have come to dominate the election campaign in a major shift from previous elections, in which political parties have generally focussed on development and employment issues. 

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