An IDF tracker was killed Thursday morning and another was critically injured as Palestinians detonated an explosive device near an IDF Sufa jeep patrolling the area near the Gaza Strip border, not far from the Kissufim crossing. Two other troops were lightly injured.
The Popular Resistance Committees released a video recording of the attack later in the day.
At around 8 am, the force went on a routine patrol. A powerful explosive device was detonated near the vehicle, which sustained great damage. The injured soldier was rushed by helicopter to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.
Following the incident, the IDF began combing the Dir al-Balah area in search of the gunmen.
In another incident Thursday, the IDF attacked a target a target near Jabaya in the northern Gaza Strip. The Palestinians reported that one man was killed and another was injured. The IDF reported that a gunmen was hit, while Palestinians said that the casualty was a 20-year-old Beit Lahiya resident.
Five Qassam rockets were fired from the northern Gaza Strip towards Israel since Thursday morning. All the rockets landed in open areas. Simultaneously, mortar shells were fired at communities within the Eshkol Regional Council, without causing injuries or damage.
A Hamas source told Ynet that immediately after the incident, the gunmen fired at the force in a bid to disrupt the rescue efforts. They then escaped and took shelter. According to eyewitnesses, the vehicle went up in flames. Several residents gathered nearby and expressed their joy over the incident.
Military sources estimated that the explosive device may have been activated by a remote control system.
"Ever since the IDF pulled out of the Gaza Strip, explosive devices have been considered one of the main threats," a military source said. "The forces have uncovered hundreds of devices on the border fence and have hit the terrorists related to these attempts."
'If we fail to operate, we'll see terror attacks in Israel'
Shortly after the incident, several mortar shells were fired at agricultural fields in Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha. There were no injuries, but the farmers in the area were forced to halt their work.
IDF sources estimated that this was not an attempt to carry out a combined terror attack, but said that Thursday's incident demonstrated the terror threats in the Gaza Strip.
Sufa jeep near Kissufim (Photo: Reuters)
"The attack demonstrated the threats on the fence, and if we fail to stop them, we will see these terror attacks inside Israeli communities," a military official said.
Over the past few months, ahead of a possible wide-scale ground operation in Gaza, the defense establishment has been monitoring the strengthening of militants in the Strip. Large amounts of weapons are flowing freely through the Sinai desert and the Philadelphi route.
Two IDF soldiers, Staff Sergeant Dror Asulin and Eran Dan-Gur, were killed last week during Operation Warm Winter in the northern Gaza Strip. The forces operating in the Strip reported encountering fighters with large amounts of weapons, determination and fighting spirit.
Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem noted Wednesday that the wide-scale operation in the Strip was being delayed for now in order to give Egypt an opportunity to stop Hamas from getting stronger, and perhaps reclose the breached Rafah border and enforce the control of the crossings.
Ali Waked contributed to this report