JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rushed back to Israel on Monday, hours after an Israeli army officer and seven Palestinians, including a local Hamas commander, were killed after an incursion by Israeli special forces into the Gaza Strip.
The Islamic militant Hamas, which rules Gaza, said Israeli undercover forces entered the territory in a civilian vehicle late Sunday and exchanged fire with Hamas gunmen.
The Hamas military wing, Izzedine al-Qassam, said Israeli undercover forces drove about 3 kilometres into southeastern Gaza and shot and killed Nour el-Deen Baraka, a mid-level commander in the town of Khan Younis. Qassam members discovered the car and chased it, prompting Israeli airstrikes that killed several people, the group said.
The New York Times reports the clash is “the first known Israeli ground incursion into Gaza since Operation Protective Edge, in July 2014, set off a seven-week war.”
The Israeli military said there had been an exchange of fire during an operation in Gaza, with troops withdrawing from the territory with the help of aircraft. It said that militants then launched 17 rockets from Gaza toward Israeli communities, where school and train service was cancelled in response, and that it had reinforced troops and its aerial defence system along the border following the flare-up.
The military provided few details about the reason for the raid. The Israeli military chief, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said a “special force” carried out “a very meaningful operation to Israel’s security,” without elaborating.