JERUSALEM (JTA) — At least six Palestinians were killed during an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and Hamas fighters in Gaza.
One of the dead Palestinians was identified as Nur Barake, a deputy commander of an elite unit of Iz al-Din al-Qassam, the military wing of Hamas. A second Hamas commander was said to be killed as well.
Israeli drones bombed Hamas targets near Khan Younis in southern Gaza on Sunday evening. The incident reportedly began when Israeli special forces on the ground in Gaza walked into an ambush and got in a firefight with Hamas forces, the public broadcaster Kan reported. The soldiers have since left Gazan territory, according to reports.
The IDF in a brief statement said of the Sunday night incident that “an exchange of fire broke out during security activities by the IDF in the Gaza Strip region.” It said in response to rumors that “no forces were abducted in the security incident.”
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called the Israeli attack “cowardly” on Sunday night, Kan reported.
Following the exchange of fire, several Code Red missile warning sirens were sounded in southern Israel. At least two rockets fired from Gaza fell in open areas near Gaza border communities there, and local residents reported hearing sounds of explosions in the area. Three rockets were reported intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
Residents of southern Israel on Sunday night were instructed to remain close to their safe rooms or bomb shelters out of fear of attacks from Gaza in response to the incident. School was ordered canceled for Monday in Gaza border communities.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held consultations with army commanders from Paris, where he had been scheduled to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday morning. Late Sunday night, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Netanyahu would abort his visit and return immediately to Israel.