A man looks at the body of Nour Baraka, a commander for Hamas' armed wing, at a hospital morgue in Khan Younis Image Credit: AFP

Highlights

  • A return by Israel to a policy of targeting individual Hamas commanders
  • Israeli forces killed seven Palestinians in the Gaza Strip
  • Israel's army confirmed one soldier was killed and another was injured

Jerusalem - A covert Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip apparently went bad Sunday, leaving at least seven Palestinians dead, including one senior Hamas military commander, and puncturing a nascent cease-fire with a flurry of airstrikes and rocket fire.

One Israeli soldier was killed and another was wounded in the action near Khan Younis, the first known Israeli ground incursion into Gaza since Operation Protective Edge, in July 2014, set off a seven-week war.

The mother of Nour Baraka, a commander for Hamas' armed wing, the Ezzedine Al Qassam Brigades who was killed during an Israeli operation on Khan Younis Image Credit: AFP

According to a statement from Hamas, Israeli special forces in a civilian car drove about 2 miles inside the Gaza Strip, east of Khan Younis, where they killed Noor Baraka, 37, a local battalion commander of Al Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing.

A gunfight ensued, and the fleeing Israelis called in airstrikes to cover their retreat to Israeli territory. At least seven Palestinians were wounded, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Palestinian fighters responded with waves of rockets aimed at Israel colonists near Gaza, and Israeli aircraft pounded targets in Gaza for a time.

Medics said at least seven people were killed, four of them fighters, including Hamas commander Nour Baraka. It was unclear if the other fatalities included gunmen.

Members of the Palestinian security forces gather at a hospital morgue where the bodies of five of the seven men killed during an Israeli operation on Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip were transported Image Credit: AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in Paris for the Armistice Day centennial, assured reporters earlier in the day that he was "working in every possible way to restore the quiet to the residents of Gaza and also prevent a humanitarian crisis." He said that the border was in "the first stage of a lull" and that he was "doing everything I can in order to avoid an unnecessary war."

By night's end Netanyahu was flying back in response to the Gaza hostilities.

The Israeli military said in a statement that: "During an IDF (Israel Defense Forces) Special Forces operational activity in the Gaza Strip, an exchange of fire evolved." One officer was killed and a second was wounded, it said.

A return by Israel to a policy of targeting individual Hamas commanders - tactics largely abandoned in recent years - could significantly raise tensions along the border.

Violence has flared frequently on the frontier since Palestinians began weekly protests on March 30. Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations have been trying to broker a long-term ceasefire.

A gunfight ensued, and the fleeing Israelis called in airstrikes to cover their retreat to Israeli territory. At least seven Palestinians were wounded, according to the Gaza health ministry.

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