Intense fighting on both sides of the Gaza border continued Monday, with the army clashing repeatedly with Hamas operatives in Gaza City and near the communities of Erez and Niram inside Israel, where squads of gunmen emerged from tunnels and engaged Israeli soldiers.
The squads surfaced in Israel shortly after six in the morning. One squad, clad in what looked like standard military gear, emerged near Erez, on Israeli territory, several kilometers northeast of the Gaza city of Beit Hanoun. Surveillance soldiers spotted the infiltrators and summoned an aircraft to the area, the army said.
The aircraft opened fire, killing the gunmen. No Israelis were hurt in the battle.
“My understanding is that the Shin Bet security service provided an alert,” Lt. Col. Peter Lerner of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said of both cross-border attacks.
At the same time, a second squad of operatives emerged from either a separate tunnel or a more southeasterly branch of the same one. The squad surfaced near Kibbutz Niram and was not immediately detected. The squad fired an anti-tank missile at a passing Israeli army vehicle, apparently a jeep, and hit it, inflicting casualties on the soldiers within. The IDF did not initially provide details on the number of casualties and their severity.
Reenforcement troops from the Nahal Brigade arrived and engaged the operatives in a gunbattle, killing all involved.
Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz told Israel Radio that the army believed the tunnel squads sought either to enter a civilian community or to attack a significant army post, with the ultimate aim of abducting a soldier or a civilian.
Earlier Monday, in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, forces from the Egoz unit engaged and killed 10 operatives, including one who detonated a suicide vest.
There were conflicting reports about the sex of the suicide bomber.
Lerner, in depicting the pitch of the battles in Shajaiya, where dozens of Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers were killed Sunday, said that the combat there is “reminiscent of ‘Black Hawk Down,'” the film [and book] describing the 1993 battles in Mogadishu, Somalia.