At least six Palestinians, including a local Hamas commander, and one Israeli soldier, were killed Sunday in clashes in the southern Gaza Strip, officials said.
Five Palestinian militants were killed and several others were wounded in the clashes near Khan Yunis, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry said. A civilian was also believed to be among the dead.
The Israeli army tweeted that one of its soldiers was killed in the operation, and another was “moderately injured.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in Paris with other world leaders to commemorate the centenary of the end of World War I, cut short his visit to return to Israel “in light of the security situation in the south,” a statement from his office said.
The Israeli army said earlier it had engaged in an “exchange of fire” in Gaza, and denied reports that its soldiers had been abducted during the operation.
A spokesman from Hamas’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, told journalists an Israeli special forces unit in a civilian vehicle had driven 3 kilometres into Gaza, where they killed the 37-year-old commander.
His killing was followed by a fierce exchange of fire and Israeli warplanes struck the area so the soldiers could retreat.
According to Palestinian sources, the commander had been responsible for digging tunnels, as well as conducting rocket attacks on Israel and attacks on Israeli soldiers.
More than 220 Palestinians have been killed in clashes since March 30, according to the Gaza health ministry.
The demonstrations, which often include stone-throwing and other violent acts, are aimed at pressuring Israel into lifting a decade-long blockade on the coastal enclave.