Five Israeli soldiers were wounded in an attack late Thursday while on an operational mission to destroy a tunnel dug by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
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The force was taking part in a joint operation by the Golani infantry brigade and the Combat Engineering Corp to destroy a part of a tunnel network discovered in the southern Gaza Strip last month. In the course of the operation, an explosive device was detonated against the soldiers, wounding five, a statement from the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson's Unit said.
One of the five sustained serious wounds, another was moderately wounded and the three others sustained light injuries. They were all evacuated by helicopter to the Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva for treatment and their families were notified. The seriously-wounded soldier was operated on overnight, while the others - one of them a lieutenant colonel - may require surgery at a later date.
In response to the attack, the troops opened fire at terrorists identified nearby, the IDF statement said, reporting that hits were identified. Hamas said one Palestinian was killed in the incident and another was wounded.
Later, the Israel Air Force bombed another tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip, which, according to the Israel Defense Forces, could have been used to carry out a terrorist attack in Israel. The IDF reported that it identified that the target was hit. Hamas said three Palestinians were killed in this attack.
The IDF statement further said that the activities conducted by Hamas were in violation of the understandings Israel reached with the organization in the wake of Operation Pillar of Defense. It added that by digging tunnels into Israeli territory, the organization was carrying out "offensive activities" against Israel.
Earlier Thursday, eyewitnesses in Gaza reported seeing tanks and armored personnel carriers entering the territory accompanied by attack helicopters. They said that exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and local militants continued into the night.
The area that the Israeli army penetrated was close to where a large Palestinian tunnel was discovered by Israeli forces in October. An Israeli military spokeswoman said forces were carrying out "a pinpoint action" in the area of the tunnel, the Associated Press reported.
On Monday this week, Israeli planes attacked two rocket launchers in Gaza in response to the firing of rockets in the direction of Ashkelon and the firing of mortars at the Eshkol region on Wednesday.