GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Palestinian militants fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli jeep patrolling the border with Gaza and the Israelis fired back into the Palestinian territory, killing four civilians, officials and witnesses said.
Israel’s military said four of its soldiers were wounded in the missile attack, one of them seriously. Ashraf al-Kidra, a Gaza health ministry spokesman, said all four Palestinians killed were civilians between the ages of 16 and 18 and that among the 25 wounded were some children.
The military wing of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine took responsibility, but it still remains unclear who was behind the attack. The PFLP often takes credit for attacks that later turn out to be the work of Hamas or Islamic Jihad militants.
Gaza militants often fire rockets from the Israel-Gaza border area toward nearby Israeli communities and low-level clashes with the Israeli military are common. But when casualties are involved, particularly civilians, the potential for escalation grows significantly.
Both sides threatened retaliation, and previously such incidents have unfolded into days of Palestinian rocket attacks and retaliatory Israeli strikes.
Later Saturday, some 25 Palestinian rockets rained on southern Israel, though they caused no injuries or damage, the military said. It said at least one of the projectiles was intercepted by the “Iron Dome” missile defense system. The military informed residents to stay close to home in case of further rocket attacks.
Palestinian officials said that an Israeli airstrike later killed one Islamic Jihad militant and wounded two others as they were attempting to fire rockets toward Israel. The Israeli military confirmed the strike.
Witnesses said that following the large explosion that started the incident, Israel retaliated to the attack on the jeep with tank and machine gun fire toward residential areas at the al-Muntar hill in the central part of the territory, hitting people who were returning from a funeral east of Gaza City.