Israel’s army announced Saturday the deaths of two of its soldiers in a clash with Gaza militants who had breached the Jewish state’s border, hours after they had been reported wounded.
An army statement said the two, Sergeant Adar Bersano, 20, from Nahariya, and Major Amotz Greenberg, 45, from Hod Hasharon, were killed fighting a group of militants who infiltrated Israel through a tunnel from the centre of the Gaza Strip.
The army had earlier said two soldiers were wounded in a clash with the militants, who had been “aiming to carry out a lethal attack in one of the nearby communities”.
The militants had fired machineguns and an anti-tank missile at the soldiers, who returned fire, “killing a terrorist and forcing the rest back into Gaza”.
Hamas’s military wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, said 12 of their men stayed “behind enemy lines” for six hours before engaging in “direct confrontation with the enemy to avenge the blood of our martyrs, particularly the children.”
The militants claimed they “killed six soldiers on patrol and wounded several others,” but the Israeli army said there were two deaths.
The army later said the militants were disguised as Israeli soldiers.
In a separate clash later Saturday, Israeli forces killed two militants in southern Gaza who had fired shots and an anti-tank missile at a nearby force, the army said.
The Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades said its fighters clashed with “Israeli special forces” in a house east of Khan Yunis, in southern Gaza, wounding some of them.
The army denied any soldiers were wounded in this incident. It noted the “forces uncovered tranquilisers and cuffs, in the possession of a terrorist killed by them. Those were carried with intention to abduct Israelis.”
Later on Saturday, the army said it killed a militant who had “emerged from a concealed tunnel shaft while firing at” Israeli soldiers, who “immediately retaliated, killing the terrorist.”
A military spokeswoman told AFP the incident took place within southern Gaza, adding she was not aware of Israeli casualties.
Qassam said in a statement they had “penetrated beyond enemy lines” near the former goods crossing point Sufa, east of Rafah, and “killed five soldiers.”
The deaths of the soldiers raise to three the number of troops killed since Israel launched a military operation to halt rocket fire by Gaza militants on July 8.
In the same period two Israeli citizens have been killed by Gaza rockets, a Bedouin man near Israel’s nuclear reactor in the southern town of Dimona on Saturday and a man near the border with Gaza on Tuesday.
Israeli fire has killed 341 Palestinians in Gaza, with the toll spiralling since the Jewish state on Thursday pressed a ground assault on Gaza, after days of relentless air strikes.