Security fence along the Gaza Strip border
Security fence along the Gaza Strip border Photo by IDF Spokespersons' Office
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Three foreign workers were injured on Saturday when a mortar fired from the Gaza Strip exploded in the Sha'ar Hanegev region.

Three mortars were fired from the Gaza Strip around 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon. Two of the mortars landed in open territory but one struck a populated area in a kibbutz near the border fence, wounding three foreign workers and damaging property.

One of the foreign workers was in moderate-serious condition from shrapnel injuries to his chest. A second foreign worker was moderately wounded by shrapnel in his leg and a third was lightly wounded in the incident.

"This is, of course, a very serious incident, one of the most severe we have had recently, it represents an escalation that appears to have reached a new height," said Alon Shuster, head of the local municipal authority.

The wounded men were transported to Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva for medical treatment.

Militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.

The wounded men men were the first in Israel to be hurt by rockets and mortars fired from Gaza since December when a teenage girl was cut by flying glass after a rocket landed near a kindergarten in the Ashkelon area.

Saturday's incident occurred less than 24 hours after an Israel Defense Forces soldier was killed and four IDF troops were wounded in a friendly fire incident on the Gaza border as the soldiers engaged a group of armed militants who were apparently approaching the border to lay explosives.

Violence has escalated in recent weeks along the border, though both Israel and Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers say they are working to avoid a full-on confrontation.