Mortar shells were fired into southern Israel Thursday night after two Palestinians were killed in an encounter with the IDF near the Kissufim checkpoint between Israel and Gaza.
Two other Palestinians were wounded in the incident, which took place east of Khan Younis, sources in Gaza said.
According to Israeli media, the Palestinians were killed by shells fired from an Israeli tank sent into Gaza to target the military wing of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Hamas sources confirmed that the dead were operatives in the organization.
Earlier Thursday, residents of Israeli communities along the Gaza border bade a reluctant farewell to IDF troops who were pulled out of guard duty there.
Soldiers will no longer man guard posts in 13 communities that abut the border, with security duties henceforth to fall on the residents themselves. Local residents said that the constant presence of soldiers had been reassuring with the Gaza Strip so close to their homes.
Community leaders had requested an urgent meeting with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon but were yet to receive a response as of Thursday, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
On Wednesday, dozens of local residents held a demonstration in the Netiv Ha’asarah community against the pullout, on which the IDF’s Operations Directorate decided in September.
Communities near the border with Gaza have sustained frequent rocket and mortar attacks over the past decade. Those attacks have diminished significantly since Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense, an 8-day military offensive that sought to curb rocket fire from the Strip last November.
Earlier this month, security forces discovered and rendered unusable an underground tunnel linking Gaza and Israel, likely intended to facilitate a terror attack or kidnapping attempts inside Israel.
The tunnel, which, according to an official, was particularly wide and about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) long, started in Abbasan al-Saghira, a farming village near Khan Younis, and terminated inside Israel, about three kilometers from Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, in the western Negev.
Stuart Winer and Mitch Ginsburg contributed to this report.