Mortar rounds from Gaza wound six Israeli soldiers
JERUSALEM - Palestinian militants in Gaza blasted a military base in southern Israel with mortar fire late yesterday, wounding six soldiers in the latest assault on an unraveling truce between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers.
Israel's rescue service said one of the soldiers was critically injured, and the others were slightly or moderately hurt.
Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the small Popular Resistance Committees, an ally of the Islamic Hamas militant group. The military base is near a fuel terminal that supplies much-needed gasoline and cooking fuel to impoverished Gaza.
According to the Israeli military, Palestinian militants fired a total of 11 mortar shells at southern Israel from Gaza yesterday. Three of them landed at the base, the military said.
Earlier in the day, Palestinian gunmen clashed with Israeli troops elsewhere along the volatile Gaza-Israel border. The military reported that one militant was shot. A Gaza health official reported one Palestinian was killed, but that report has not been confirmed.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the mortar fire came in response to that clash.
"We have said from the beginning that any Israeli breach will be met with a response, and this was a response," Barhoum said.
The violence is further marring a five-month-old truce between Israel and Gaza militants that began breaking down in early November with an Israeli operation against Gaza militants.
Israel has responded to ensuing mortar and rocket attacks from Gaza by tightening its blockade of the coastal strip. Only small shipments of aid and fuel are currently allowed into Gaza, deepening the hardship there.
Israel says cargo crossings won't open until militants halt rocket fire at Israeli towns.
Despite the resurgent violence, both sides have expressed interest in renewing the truce, though possibly under different terms. Israel closed its cargo crossings with Gaza on Tuesday because of Palestinian rocket fire, one day after allowing humanitarian supplies in.
The crossings were briefly opened Monday to allow 42 truckloads of supplies in.