8 IDF Troops Hurt in W. Negev Mortar Strike, Soldier Loses Leg

11 mortar shells fired from Gaza hit military base; two soldiers in serious condition.

Eight Israel Defense Forces soldiers were wounded Friday evening, two seriously, after mortars fired by Gaza Strip militants hit a military base near Kibbutz Nahal Oz in the western Negev.

The soldiers were evacuated to Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva and to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon.

Six soldiers were still hospitalized Saturday morning. Doctors had to amputate the leg of one of the soldiers who was brought to the hospital in serious condition. One of the doctors told Israel Radio that the soldier "was seriously hurt in both legs. He underwent X-ray and was immediately brought to the operating room where several teams of surgeons operated on him all night. Unfortunately, we had no choice but to amputate his leg, in hopes that we managed to save the other leg. He is currently on a ventilator and unconscious."

An additional Qassam rocket was fired from Gaza at the western Negev overnight. No injuries or damage were reported in the attack.

Responsibility for the mortar attack was claimed by the small Popular Resistance Committees, an ally of the Islamic Hamas militant group that rules Gaza. The Hamas later also claimed responsibility for the attack.

The military base is located near a fuel terminal that supplies much-needed gasoline and cooking fuel to the impoverished Gaza Strip.

According to the Israeli military, Palestinian militants fired a total of 11 mortars at southern Israel from Gaza on Friday. Three of them landed at the bas, the IDF said.

The mortar barrage came after earlier on Friday an IDF patrol clashed with Palestinian militants in the southeastern Gaza Strip near Kibbutz Nir Oz, killing at least one.

The violence has further marred a fragile 5-month-old truce between Israel and Gaza militants that began breaking down in early November.

Israel has responded to mortar and rocket attacks from Gaza by tightening its blockade of the coastal strip. Only small shipments of aid and fuel are currently allowed into Gaza, deepening the hardship there.

Israel says cargo crossings won't open until militants halt rocket fire at Israeli towns.