Three Palestinian men were shot dead after they crossed the border into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip and threw an explosive device at Israeli troops Tuesday night, amid rising tensions in the region, the military said.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, the three entered Israeli territory from the southern Gaza Strip, going into a nearby wooded area, near the community of Kibbutz Kissufim.
During this time, the suspects were under constant IDF surveillance, the military said.
“IDF troops were called to the scene, closed off the area and began searching for the suspects, who threw an explosive device or grenade at the soldiers,” the IDF said in a statement.
“The soldiers opened fire at the suspects, and a hit was confirmed. There was no threat presented to the [nearby] communities,” the military added. The army later confirmed that all three attackers were killed.
There were no injuries to the soldiers.
The IDF released a video showing the men throwing the explosive device.
The night-time incident came amid a general increase in violence along the Gaza border. In recent days, terrorists have flown numerous bombs and incendiary devices into Israeli territory from the Palestinian enclave with the aid of helium-filled balloons — attacks that have largely gone unanswered by the IDF.
Israeli officials believe the Palestinian terror group Hamas is behind these escalating tensions, as the group seeks to signal it is unhappy with the slow progress of negotiations for a long-term ceasefire with Israel.
Officials on Monday assessed that the group could move to undermine the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, to be held in Jerusalem on Wednesday and Thursday — either by increasing balloon attacks at Israeli communities or by allowing other smaller groups to fire rockets into Israel, according to a Channel 13 report.
The report said Israel had warned Hamas that it will respond forcefully to any attempt to disrupt the summit of world leaders, and will not hesitate to strike the terror group in the Gaza Strip in response to such provocations, regardless of the intensified international focus.
The Fifth World Holocaust Forum is scheduled to take place on January 23 at Yad Vashem in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
The balloon-based attacks continued Tuesday, with a bundle of balloons attached to a model airplane landing in an open field near the community of Neot Hovav, south of Beersheba.
A police sapper arrived and “took care of the object,” the statement said.
The tactic of launching balloons carrying explosive and arson devices from Gaza into Israel emerged in 2018 as part of a series of protests and riots along the Strip’s border, known collectively as the March of Return. The simple and cheap method of attack by Palestinians has proved effective as Israeli security forces have struggled to counter the tactic, but had largely stopped over half a year ago.
Adam Rasgon and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.