IAF strikes in southern Gaza after 5 soldiers injured by Hamas bomb

11/1/13. IAF strikes in southern Gaza after 5 soldiers injured by Hamas bomb.

“One soldier was seriously wounded and another was in moderate condition late Thursday during an IDF operation to destroy part of a terror tunnel east of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. A total of five soldiers were injured when Hamas detonated an explosive device against the forces, the IDF said in a statement Friday.

The soldiers returned fire and “directly hit a terrorist,” the IDF said, adding that the Israeli Air Force then targeted another tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip, confirming a direct hit. Palestinian sources said that three members of Hamas’s armed wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, were killed in the retaliation.

All five soldiers were evacuated via helicopter to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.

Hamas-run TV in Gaza confirmed that its forces laid out a “sophisticated” improvised explosive device (IED) for the soldiers, adding that this was a “slap in the face to those who claim the resistance is dead,” Army Radio reported Friday morning.

A view of a tunnel dug by Palestinians beneath the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel and recently uncovered by Israeli troops, on October 13, 2013. (photo credit: David Buimovitch/Flash90)

A view of a tunnel dug by Palestinians beneath the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel and recently uncovered by Israeli troops, on October 13, 2013. (photo credit: David Buimovitch/Flash90)

The soldiers were preparing to blow up a segment of a major tunnel that was exposed in October, the IDF said. They were within 100 meters of the Kissufim checkpoint between Israel and the Strip, on the Gazan side, according to Walla News.

The tunnel — 18 meters underground, 1.7 km long and particularly wide, according to officials – started in Abbasan al-Saghira, a farming village near Khan Younis, and terminated inside Israel, about three kilometers from Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, in the western Negev.

“In its offensive actions against Israel, Hamas has breached the arrangements reached following Operation Pillar of Defense,” the IDF said in a statement Friday.

The tunnel was likely intended to facilitate a terror attack or kidnapping attempts inside Israel.

“This mission was imperative due to the potential to utilize the terror tunnel for future attacks against Israeli civilians. This tunnel, similar to the one used to kill two IDF soldiers and kidnap Gilad Shalit in 2006, was built for this heinous purpose. Hamas, as the authority in the Gaza Strip, is accountable and responsible for all activities aimed at harming Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers,” said IDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner in the statement.

Earlier Thursday, residents of Israeli communities along the Gaza border bade a reluctant farewell to IDF troops who were pulled out of guard duty there.

Soldiers will no longer man guard posts in 13 communities that abut the border, with security duties henceforth to fall on the residents themselves. Local residents said that the constant presence of soldiers had been reassuring with the Gaza Strip so close to their homes.

Community leaders had requested an urgent meeting with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, but were yet to receive a response as of Thursday, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

Alon Schuster, head of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, reacted to the IDF withdrawal, saying its timing was “most unfortunate” in light of Thursday night’s events in Gaza. “The facts speak for themselves,” he added.

On Wednesday, dozens of local residents held a demonstration in the Netiv Ha’asarah community against the pullout, on which the IDF’s Operations Directorate decided in September.

Communities near the border with Gaza have sustained frequent rocket and mortar attacks over the past decade. Those attacks have diminished significantly since Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense, an 8-day military offensive that sought to curb rocket fire from the Strip last November.”

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