Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh left the Erez crossing moments before eight mortar shells slammed into the area early Wednesday afternoon. No injuries were reported but damage was caused to the site.
Sneh, who despite the intelligence warning had refused to wear a helmet during his visit like all those surrounding him, was touring the crossing to examine the performance of the troops manning it.
Immediately after his visit the mortars fell. Earlier this week four soldiers were wounded from mortar shells in the base adjacent to the Erez crossing. The base hosts the IDF's District Coordination and Liaison Unit which facilitates the passage of goods and equipment into Gaza from Israel.
Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. The section of the crossing which came under fire is the terminal used by Palestinian merchants and VIP high-ranking officials. The crossing has long been closed for the entry of Palestinian laborers into Israel.
A fire broke out on the Palestinian side of the crossing compound after the attack, with one of the shells falling near the goods terminal.
Another shell landed near a building used police forces. Police officers have recently raised concerns about the location of the building, saying that they are under constant threat from Gaza attacks.
IDF sources said terror groups often target the crossing to disrupt normal operations there and also try to inflict as much bodily harm to the soldiers manning the site.
Mortar shells have a much shorter range than Qassam rockets and were one of the staples of Palestinian attacks on Israeli settlements and IDF outposts in Gaza. Now with Israel out of Gaza they are mostly used against IDF border patrols and outposts. In recent days alone over 20 mortars have been fired.
Earlier Wednesday morning Health Minister Yacov Ben Yizri inaugurated two new centers for victims of trauma in Sderot and the Shaar Hanegev Regional council. The centers will provide medical support for residents suffering from trauma and bring regional mental health professionals under one roof to help patients.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Health allocated $488,000 to the Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon and various medical clinics in the area to aid with fortification efforts as per the orders of the IDF Home Front Command.