Sunday, June 25

Six soldiers hurt in large-scale firefight with Gaza infiltrators (Updated)

At least six IDF soldiers were wounded and at least four Palestinian gunmen were killed in a still-developing clash near Kibbutz Kerem Shalom early Sunday morning, according to Israel Army Radio.

"Hours after the raid, IDF tanks and troops entered the Strip near the site of the attack, an army position near the Kerem Shalom crossing. Military sources said the incursion was part of a manhunt for the remaining gunmen.

"The attack on the IDF tank was claimed by Palestinian militants, including the Hamas armed wing. The Popular Resistance Committees also later claimed responsibility for the attack," Haaretz reported.

An unspecified number of Israelis were medivaced to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba, as of the 07:30 Army Radio update, as the IDF brought helicopters, tanks and large forces into rapidly- evolving operation.

Army Radio is cautiously using extreme terms in describing the fast-developing incident, terminology commonly used in the past when referring to severe IDF and/or civilian casualties, before receiving the go-ahead from the army censor.

"A Palestinian security source told Ynet that there is a possibility that the terrorists who fired a missile at an IDF post near the Sufa crossing infiltrated Israel from Sinai.

"The official said that the fact that the gunmen were heavily armed and that their access to the area was almost uninterrupted hints to the possibility they arrived from the Egyptian side, and from the Palestinian side, which is secured by IDF soldiers."

Five soldiers were killed in a similar attack at the same location, when Palestinians detonated a large bomb in a tunnel beneath the facility four years ago.

Kibbutz Kerem Shalom manager Ilan Regev said the Palestinian gunmen used a tunnel to bypass the security fence with Israel, in the surprise assault by several Palestinian groups, including Hamas, on a nearby IDF position and tank.

Kibbutz member Iris Lavie, speaking with Army Radio said they were awakened at 05:00 by the sounds of the firefight.

Repeated bursts of machine gun fire heard in the background punctuated radio interviews with both members.

Kerem Shalom's residents were instructed to enter "safe rooms," early Sunday morning as the firefight between the two sides escalated, some 300 meters from the kibbutz. The army requested that residents of other Israeli communities also remain indoors, and deploy civilian perimeter security squads.

Severe security alerts have kept the nearby Sufa cargo crossing point with Gaza, alongside the Egyptian border closed for the last week.

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