An Israeli farmer sows a field by the border with Gaza last month.
An Israeli farmer sows a field by the border with Gaza last month. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz
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A high power explosive device exploded on Thursday near an IDF force that was doing routine maintenance work on the border fence. As a result of the explosion an unmanned military jeep was blown into the air and completely destroyed. A soldier located dozens of feet from the explosion was very lightly wounded. The source of the explosion was a booby-trapped tunnel near Kibbutz Nirim. The Israeli Defense Forces stressed that this was an extremely large tunnel 13 feet deep.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel takes the incident very seriously.

According to Palestinian reports a 13-year-old child was killed by IDF fire in the area. The IDF claims that the force on the scene fired at an open field as a part of its activity: locating and detonating of explosive devices, but that the incident would be investigated further.

In the past three weeks, three explosive devices were detonated in the area surrounding Nirim. In one of these incidents three weeks ago, a military vehicle was damaged. A few days later, an explosion ripped through a gate in the fence. This explosion resulted in the severe injury of Cpt. Ziv Shilon, a company commander in the army's Givati Brigade. This week another device exploded by an armored personnel carrier. This explosion resulted in light injuries to three soldiers and moderate to light injuries to a third soldier. The APC was severely damaged.

In a reaction to these incidents, the IDF began taking action in the area aimed at uncovering these explosive devices and detonating them. The troops that were involved in Thursday's incident were mending a fence that was damaged in an explosion aimed at clearing the area of explosive devices. The explosion took place during as the soldiers worked, throwing a jeep into the air and causing a soldier very light injuries.

The IDF believes the explosive device was intentional and was intended to injure the crew that was working on the fence. As a result of the explosion a large booby-trapped tunnel 13-feet deep was exposed. Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said Thursday evening: "The tunnel in question was rare in its large size in light of recent activity."