Two Israeli soldiers were killed late Friday when they clashed with Palestinian militants near the Kissufim crossing on the Gaza border. Two other Israeli soldiers were wounded in the clash, one seriously.
One of the dead was named as Major Eliraz Peretz, a regimental deputy commander.
According to the Israel Defense Force, the IDF shot and killed four Palestinian fighters as they attempted to plant an explosive device near the border.
Palestinian news agencies claim Palestinian fighters clashed with the IDF on Friday morning. During the fire fight two Palestinian fighters were killed, they claim.
The Israeli Southern Command said that the other Israeli soldier was killed after a bullet hit a grenade in his webbing, detonating it.
According to Hamas, its gunmen had fired on Israeli soldiers after they crossed into the Gaza Strip.
“An Israeli army force raided 500 metres (yards) into Palestinian territory, and was confronted by our gunmen,” said Abu Obeida, spokesman for the Hamas armed wing. “This was our work, but was carried out for defense.”
According to witnesses, Friday’s clash began with an explosion, possibly caused by a anti-armor rocket fired from the nearby Palestinian town of Khan Yunis, hitting an Israeli army patrol on the central Gazan border.
Israeli forces backed by tanks responded, firing back at the Palestinian fighters before entering Gazan territory, the witnesses said.
Later on Friday, Hamas acknowledged its fighters were involved in the clash – a departure for the group, which has avoided clashing with Israeli forces since Operation Cast Lead, the IDF onslaught into Gaza last January.