Palestinian sources said at least five tanks entered the Gaza Strip, east of Khan Younis, and fired shells in the area where 32-year-old Major Eliraz Peretz and 21-year-old Staff Sergeant Ilan Sviatkovsky were killed in a fire exchange with terrorists earlier Friday.
According to the Palestinians, two armed bulldozers entered the Strip along with the tanks. The Popular Resistance Committees confirmed one of its fighters was critically wounded by shelling. Palestinian sources reported Israeli helicopters and unmanned military drones in the skies.
The incident, in which an explosive device was detonated and a fire exchange took place, occurred around 4 pm inside the Gaza Strip's territory. An IDF force entered the Strip when it identified two Palestinians planting explosives near the border fence.
Two Palestinian gunmen were killed in the incident. Two hours later, two more Palestinians were killed in another incident in the area. They were spotted by and IDF force near the border fence and shot.
A force from the Golani Brigade's 12th battalion entered the Palestinian territory near the border fence around Kissufim crossing to come the area. Friday morning soldiers spotted suspicious figures, and later decided to inspect the area.
As the soldiers arrived at the border fence, they noticed the Palestinians planting the devices several dozens of meters from the fence. The soldiers opened fire at the Palestinians, while crossing the fence into Palestinians territory.
During the chase, one of the devices exploded, and gunshots were simultaneously fired at the force. The two soldiers were killed during the clashes. Two others were injured and evacuated to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, after suffering from shrapnel injuries. One of the soldiers sustained moderate-serious injures from shrapnel in his chest, the other soldier was lightly injured from shrapnel in his leg.
Southern Command Chief Major-General Yoav Galant said, "The soldiers advanced in a proper operational manner and when the terrorists were seen moving westward, tanks that were stationed undercover opened fire. One of the terrorists approached the forces point blank and opened fire. In the clashes, one of the fighters was apparently hit by the grenade that was on his person, and as a result the explosion that killed him and injured two other soldiers took place. Another fighter was killed in another fire exchange in the area. In total, two fighters were killed."
Galant added, "The terrorists were hit, two were killed. In another incident which took place two hours later north of there two other terrorists trying to pant bombs at the fence were killed. These are events that take place every day. The soldiers' activity is meant to protect the civilians of the nearby communities. Operations are carried out on both sides of the fence, by foot, with tanks, in covert and open activity.
"Unfortunately, we paid a very hefty price this Shabbat eve and on the even of the holiday. Shabbat Shalom, happy holiday. We support the families and express our deep sorrow over the incident. We will continue to work to enable all of the State of Israel's citizens to celebrate the Seder fittingly."
Hanan Greenberg contributed to this report