The Israeli military released video Monday it said showed a dramatic firefight between Israeli troops and Palestinian terrorists likely on their way to attack an Israeli community near Gaza.
The Israel Defense Forces said 10 armed Palestinians emerged on the Israeli side of the border from a Hamas-constructed tunnel early in the morning, apparently hoping the grass would provide them camouflage.
The IDF spokesman’s office said the militants were divided into two squads that infiltrated Israel through the tunnel, which originated in northern Gaza. An Israeli air force jet bombed one of the squads, while the others apparently were killed during the firefight, part of which was shown in the video.
The second squad fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli military vehicle, Haaretz reported.
Israel said that all 10 Palestinians were killed.
Later Monday, the IDF announced that four Israeli soldiers were killed in the exchange of fire with the Palestinian militants who were disguised as Israeli soldiers. The IDF usually withholds announcing soldier deaths for several hours until all immediate family members are notified.
Israeli media reported that the four soldiers were killed when one of the Hamas fighters fired a rocket-propelled grenade at an IDF jeep. According to the Times of Israel, Hamas simultaneously opened fire on the Gaza side of the border as a diversion tactic.
“We paid a heavy price, but we averted a grave disaster,” said Sami Turgeman, the general who oversees the IDF’s Southern Command. “There is no Iron Dome protection against tunnel infiltration.”
Three other Israeli soldiers were killed Monday in separate incidents.
Residents of the nearby communities of Kibbutz Nir Am and Kibbutz Erez were told to stay inside while the shooting drama unfolded about a half a mile from the Israeli city of Sderot.
The IDF also uncovered the opening of a tunnel dug from Gaza into the dining hall of Kibbutz Kissufim, an Israeli community in southern Israel, Israel's Channel 2 reported.
Monday’s infiltration was the latest in a string of Hamas attempts to attack Israeli civilians through a sophisticated network of underground tunnels, some extending more than a mile. Hamas, which the U.S. designates as a foreign terrorist organization, continued firing rockets at Israeli cities, racking up a count of more than 1,820 explosive projectiles in the past 14 days, an average of 140 per day, according to the IDF.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday at the start of the ground operation that the main objective was to dismantle Hamas' terror tunnel network.
“All of Gaza is an underground city, and the amount of infrastructure Hamas built up over the years is immense. There are tunnels, extended bunkers, weapons storage facilities, even within urban areas,” Israeli military spokesman Capt. Eytan Buchman told the Washington Post.
Human rights groups have for years decried Israel for limiting the amount of construction materials into Gaza, but Israeli officials have insisted the cement was being diverted for terrorism use, not homes and businesses. The latest revelation of the extensive, concrete-fortified underground structures would appear to bolster the Israeli claims.
As it widens its fight against Hamas, Israeli aircraft on Friday reportedly struck a warehouse in Sudan storing rockets for Hamas, the London-based Al-Arab newspaper reported Monday.
The report said that the Sudanese government did not reveal the strike so as not to expose its ties to Hamas.
TheBlaze is unable to independently confirm that report.
This story has been updated.