Cleared for publication: An IDF soldier was killed by friendly fire during a clash with terrorists Friday evening along the Gaza border, near Kibbiutz Nirim.
Another soldier sustained moderate wounds in the incident, while three others were lightly wounded. The army said all of the soldiers were hit by friendly fire.
The soldier who was killed in the incident has been identified as Sergeant Natav Rotenberg, 20, from Ramot Hashavim.
The incident began when Palestinian terrorists approached the security fence separating Israel form the Hamas-ruled territory and opened fire on the Israeli troops using automatic weapons. Five soldiers belonging to Battalion 202 of the Paratroopers Brigade were injured in the clash, and one of them later succumbed to his wounds.
According to an initial army investigation, while the paratroopers were exchanging fire with the terrorists, more soldiers from the same battalion arrived at the scene and began launching mortars at the terrorists.
For reasons that have yet to be determined, one of the shells hit the five soldiers.
The wounded troops were evacuated to Beersheba's Soroka Medical Center. The three terrorists, who were apparently also hit, managed to escape.
News agencies reported that Palestinians also launched mortar shells in the soldiers' direction.
A few weeks ago a paratrooper sustained severe injuries when an IDF tank accidently opened fired at him with a machinegun near the Gaza border fence. The tank was alerted to the scene following a report of an attempt to infiltrate Israel.
Soldiers being evacuated (Photo: Herzl Yosef)
The army estimates that the terrorists attempted to plant explosive devices near the border fence.
Injured soldier being evacuated (Photo: Herzl Yosef)
Media outlets affiliated with Hamas reported that the exchanges of fire took place east of the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza. According to the Palestinian reports, Israeli helicopters opened fire with automatic weapons on residential areas and agricultural fields in the area.
The reports said IDF mortar fire could also be heard.
On Thursday, two Palestinian were shot to death by IDF soldiers after they approached the security fence in an apparent attempt to plant bombs.
"An IDF force identified a number of suspects tinkering with the border fence in the northern Gaza Strip," the IDF said in a statement, adding that the soldiers had shot and killed the possible infiltrators.
"Terror agents take advantage of their presence near the border fence to lay explosive devices and plan attacks and kidnappings of IDF soldiers, and this endangers the citizens of Israel as well as security forces operating in the area," the statement said.
Military officials said Hamas and other Palestinian groups would try to increase their terrorist activity along the border, possibly with the use of advanced weapons.
A few weeks ago a Kornet missile was fired at an Israeli tank. The missile hit the tank and penetrated its outer shell but failed to explode inside it.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi made it clear that "this is a massive missile, one of the most dangerous in the battlefield, which has already been used against the IDF in the Lebanon war."
Roee Nahmias and Roni Sofer contributed to the report
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