An officer was seriously injured in the incident and two other troops sustained light wounds. They received initial medical treatment on site and were evacuated to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba with injuries to their limbs and shrapnel wounds.
The blast occurred shortly after 8 am, as a routine IDF force patrolled the border fence in the southern Gaza Strip. The patrol included three vehicles in an area which has been the target of previous attacks due to the difficult ground conditions.
The vehicle hit was the first in the convoy and included four scouts, who were all injured. IDF officials estimated that the demolition charge had been planted in the area in the past, perhaps even in the past few months, and was activated from afar as the fortified vehicle passed by.
Palestinian sources reported that exchanges of fire erupted in the area, including sniper fire. Eyewitnesses said two or three gunmen were seen moving towards the border fence in the early morning hours. Heavy gunfire was audible along the border in central Gaza and Israeli helicopters hovered in the air, firing bursts from their machine guns, the witnesses said. Two loud explosions were reportedly heard in Gaza City.
Military sources said that the Kissufim incident illustrated Hamas' plan not to include activities against IDF soldiers in the ceasefire agreement. They said that alongside halting the rocket fire, the Palestinian organizations will attempt to carry out additional attacks near the border fence and in other areas.
Damaged jeep evacuated (Photo: Reuters)
IDF officials said several hours after the end of Operation Cast Lead that Hamas had instructed its activists to try and target IDF forces.
"It's illegitimate and unacceptable," one of the sources said, noting that the mode of response should be decided on by the political echelon.
He said Hamas knows the IDF won't be able to address attacks against soldiers as it addresses the rocket fire, and will therefore continue to try and target forces around the Strip, including attempts to kidnap a soldier.
Four different firing incidents have taken place since the Political-Security Cabinet declared a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza. All occurred on January 19. In one incident, an army patrol was fired on near the border fence in the southern Strip. Shortly afterwards, eight mortar shells were fired at Israel in three different barrages.
'Hamas wants truce despite power games'
The Gaza incident took place as the discussions between the Palestinian factions' representatives and Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman continued in Cairo in a bid to reach an agreement on continuing the ceasefire.
A senior source in one of the Palestinian organizations said Sunday that Hamas "is very interested in a ceasefire, despite the power games."
According to the source, the Gaza Strip organizations understand that the Palestinian population is expecting a period of calm, during which residents will be able to rebuild their homes and rehabilitate their lives.
Injured evcauted to hospital (Photo: Herzel Yosef)
The London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat reported two days ago that Hamas has agreed to an 18-month truce in exchange for the opening of all crossing "at full production".
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said following the cabinet decision on a unilateral ceasefire that "if Hamas repeats its unruly attacks it will be surprised once again by Israel's crushing hand. I suggest they don’t try it.
"Hamas is not part of the arrangement we've reached. Terror organizations have no part and will have no part in the agreements reached."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said at the same occasion that "Israel is holding fire, but there is no complete security, and therefore the IDF and the citizens on the home front must remain alert."
He added that the forces would remain deployed and that any violation of the ceasefire would lead to an Israeli response.
Ali Waked, Ilana Curiel and The Associated Press contributed to this report