IDF officer critically wounded in blast near Gaza

Netanyahu vows "very hard" response, says Iran supporting terrorists in Gaza; PFLP claims responsibility for attack.

IDF soldiers near Gaza border 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
IDF soldiers near Gaza border 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
An IDF officer was critically wounded while carrying out a routine patrol near the Gaza border fence on Tuesday. A blast was heard in the vicinity of the incident which the IDF believes was caused by a roadside bomb.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, speaking at the beginning of a meeting with visiting Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev, vowed that Israel's response to the bomb attack would be "very hard."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, speaking at a joint missile defense exercise between Israel and the US, said the IDF will respond to the attack "at an opportune moment" and that "no man or group who harms Israel will remain untouched."
Paramedics treated the officer on site; a helicopter then evacuated him to Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the attack, Reuters reported.
The IDF Spokesman's Office stated that terror organizations have repeatedly used the area adjacent to the Gaza security fence where the officer was injured for laying explosive devices and attempting to execute terror attacks. Last week, an explosive device detonated against IDF soldiers in the same area caused damage to a military vehicle, according to the IDF.
During a joint press conference with Plevneliev, Netanyahu alluded to Iran's involvement in the ongoing terror emanating from Gaza, saying Israel was engaged in a "hard battle" with the Iranian-organized world terror network and that terrorists in the Strip were getting their directions "from afar."
Although Bulgaria has not yet formally pointed a finger at Iran for the attack against Israeli tourists there this summer, Netanyahu also described that attack as an example of the Iranian terror network at work.
"Iran supported Hezbollah's terror attacks in Bulgaria; Iran is supporting terror attacks now against us in Gaza," he said.
"We will fight and we will hit them very, very hard – very hard," Netanyahu said. "That's the only way to fight them. The way to fight terror is to fight terror, and that we shall do with great force."
On Monday, the Israel Air Force bombed two Palestinian terrorist cells in northern Gaza about to carry out mortar attacks on southern Israel.
The air strikes accurately struck the cells, the IDF said. Palestinian sources said that two terrorists were killed in the IAF strike on Monday morning and two more were injured.
Earlier in the morning, terrorists fired mortar shells at an IDF force carrying out a routine patrol along northern Gaza. Soldiers returned fire.
In addition, four rockets fired from the coastal territory landed in open areas in the Sha'ar Hanegev and Ashkelon Coast Regional Council areas. No injuries or damage were reported in the attacks.
Last week saw an escalation in hostilities on the Gaza front, with dozens of rockets falling on southern Israel and the IAF striking centers of terror activity in response.Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.