Eight Palestinian militants emerged from a tunnel some 300 yards inside Israel on Saturday morning, surprising an Israeli border patrol with a rocket-propelled grenade shot at their jeeps and starting a gun battle that left two Israeli soldiers and one militant dead before the Palestinians retreated underground, the Israeli military said.
Saturday afternoon, two more militants entered Israel, a military spokesman said, either through a tunnel or breaching the border fence, and carrying tranquilizers and handcuffs. Israeli soldiers fatally shot one; the other was wearing an explosive vest that detonated, killing him. Hours later, another militant slipped through a different tunnel into Israeli territory and, according to the military, fired on troops who killed him.
The infiltrations came as the Israeli military pressed deeper into Gaza in an intensifying ground war it says is meant to destroy a labyrinth of tunnels leading from Gaza into Israel before they can be used for launching attacks.
The morning clash was the first time in the current war that the militants killed soldiers inside Israel, and came just three days after another infiltration that the military said was the immediate trigger for adding a ground invasion to a deadly air campaign.