Hamas men entered the country via a tunnel before dawn on Thursday, and soldiers foiled their attempt to enter a kibbutz.
Field intelligence units monitoring the border area identified 13 terrorists who exited a tunnel near Kibbutz Sufa (on the border with central Gaza and not far from Egypt).
The army said it “neutralized the threat” with an air strike on the cell, and released video footage of the tunnel exit being blown up seconds after the terrorists are seen retreating underground.
The IDF said it believed several members of the attack cell were hurt by the blast. Hamas later claimed its men had completed a successful intelligence mission and that all of them returned to the Gaza Strip.
Following the failed attack, the IDF released photographs of weapons left behind by the terrorists, including several rocket-propelled-grenade launchers and AK-45 assault rifles.
The army said it held Hamas responsible for the attempted attack.
The military received an alert at 4 a.m., and intelligence units detected an attempt by terrorists in Gaza to enter Israel through a tunnel, IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz said.
“Units arrived at the scene, and the terrorists were apparently surprised. They began returning to the tunnel. The air force attacked them from the air,” Almoz said. “We understand there are [enemy] casualties. The full picture is not yet known.
“This is another successful thwarting of a Hamas attack planned for the southern area.
We are ready for these scenarios in the coming days,” the IDF spokesman said.
The terrorists planned to either kidnap an Israeli or kill civilians in the Kibbutz Sufa area, Almoz said. “This is a significant success for us. Had we not succeeded, we would have woken up to 13 terrorists in a kibbutz.”
Later on Thursday, police closed a number of major roads in southern Israel due to a suspected security breach in the area. Security forces initially feared that terrorists had again entered Israel, and told residents in Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha (also on the border with central Gaza) and the surrounding area to stay in their homes.
The lock-down was later lifted and roads in the area, including Routes 25, 40 and 241, were reopened.