5 IDF soldiers wounded, 4 Palestinians killed in Gaza clashes
IDF soldiers ambushed while detonating Hamas tunnel near border • Senior Hamas terrorist killed in ensuing battle • IDF: Hamas has violated the understandings reached after Operation Pillar of Defense.
Israel Hayom Staff and News Agencies
IDF soldiers near the Gaza border on Thursday
Five Israel Defense Forces soldiers were wounded late Thursday night in an explosion near the Gaza border in the Khan Yunis area. According to the IDF Spokesperson's Unit, one of the soldiers was in serious condition, another was moderately hurt and the rest sustained light injuries.
In response, an Israeli airstrike killed three militants in Gaza on Friday, the Islamist terror group Hamas said, after an overnight clash left a fourth Palestinian gunman dead.
It was the worst violence between Israeli and Palestinian forces in the coastal enclave since a cease-fire was struck last November at the end of an eight-day conflagration.
Quoting an unnamed source in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Maan news agency named the three dead Palestinians as Mohammad al-Qassas, Mohammad Dawoud, and Khalid Abu Bakra. The three were commanders of Hamas' military wing, the report said according to Palestinian officials.
Ambulances managed to retrieve their bodies once Israeli forces withdrew, about an hour and a half after the airstrike, according to the Palestinian report.
Overnight, the IDF detonated a part of a tunnel used by the Palestinians to facilitate attacks on Israelis, discovered in southern Gaza last month. During the course of the operation, a Palestinian explosive device was used to ambush Israeli forces, wounding five. One Hamas militant was reportedly killed in the ensuring exchange of fire.
The operation was a joint Golani Brigade and Engineering Corps effort. The Israeli forces were operating about 100 meters inside Palestinian territory, near the Kissufim border crossing and Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha.
The five wounded soldiers all belong to the IDF Engineering Corps. Of the five, one is a lieutenant colonel and another is a major.
After the soldiers were wounded, an observation team identified a terrorist cell at a nearby location, apparently linked to the incident.
The soldiers were evacuated by helicopter to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba for treatment.
"With its actions, Hamas has violated the understandings reached after Operation Pillar of Defense," said an IDF statement Friday. "They engaged in offensive operations within Israeli territory and built offensive tunnels. Hamas is the sovereign in the Gaza Strip and it is their responsibility to prevent terror of any kind. The IDF will continue to take action to remove all threats facing the citizens of the State of Israel and our defense forces."
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri "blessed" the latest attacks saying his group "gave a painful lesson" to Israel. "Gaza will be the land of hell" for Israel, he said on Friday.
At Soroka hospital on Friday, doctors were fighting to save the eyesight of the soldier who sustained the worst injuries among the Israelis involved in the incident. Speaking to Israeli news outlets, a military source said that the soldier was sedated and breathing via a respirator.
Doctors reported that all five soldiers had sustained injuries to their faces and limbs as well as burns, but insisted that none were in life-threatening conditions.
The Israel-Gaza frontier had been mostly quiet for the past year following the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire.
On Monday, however, Gaza militants fired two rockets into southern Israel and Israel bombed what it said were two concealed rocket launchers in northern Gaza. There were no casualties in those incidents.