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An Israel Defense Forces soldier who suffered moderate injuries on the border with the Gaza Strip on Saturday appears to have been hit by friendly fire during a clash with two Palestinian militants, an initial IDF investigation found yesterday.

The soldier, from Battalion 202 of the Paratroopers Brigade, was part of a force deployed to the area after soldiers at an IDF observation post saw two Palestinian militants trying to reach the Gaza border fence in the midst of a storm.

IDF paratroopers and tanks fired on the militants, killing them.

During the search the followed the incident, IDF soldiers came under sniper and mortar fire, and fired back. At that point the soldier was hit in the abdomen.

He is being treated at Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, and his injuries are classified as moderate.

Military officials at first thought the soldier was shot by the Palestinian militants or hit by sniper fire from Gaza.

However, an initial investigation carried out in the field yesterday showed that the soldier was apparently hit by gunfire from another IDF soldier.

The conclusion is not yet final, but it appears that the bad weather and the unstable ground made it difficult to correctly identify the soldier who was shot.

The number of security incidents along the Gaza border has been on the rise in recent days.

In most cases, the soldiers manning the IDF observation posts are quick to identify militants even before they reach the fence, and they are killed by long-range fire.

When the weather is bad, as it has been in the last few days, the militants are able to move closer to the fence and the exchanges of fire occur at short range. Incidents of mistaken identity and friendly fire tend to increase in such circumstances.