WESTERN NEGEV, Israel - Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired more than 35 Kassam rockets on southern Israeli communities early Wednesday morning, following an Israel Defense Forces operation to thwart "an immediate threat."
IDF troops entered Gaza late Tuesday night to destroy a tunnel, dug by Hamas, meant for kidnapping more Israeli soldiers.
"The tunnel we uncovered was ready for imminent use, forcing us to act immediately," one IDF official said. "We did not know where the other end of the tunnel surfaced. In light of the intelligence we received about its immediate use, plans for special forces to enter Gaza this evening after sundown were approved," he said.
"The operation will end tonight and soldiers will head back to Israeli territory," he said. "We are committed to the cease-fire, but we saw an immediate threat of kidnapping. Hamas placed the cease-fire in jeopardy. We can't ignore a red warning of a kidnapping attack," he said.
Three soldiers were wounded by a mortar shell during the operation and six Hamas gunmen were killed, according to Palestinian sources.
Meanwhile, Hamas operatives blew up the home housing the entrance to the tunnel. IDF officials said the massive explosion was evidence that a "large amounts of explosives" had been stored there.
Five Hamas Gunmen Killed in Air Strikes
Earlier, Palestinian sources said Hamas five gunmen were killed in air strikes against mortar launching sites south of Khan Yunis. The Air Force targeted the launch site after one of several mortars fired toward the Eshkol region landed near the Kissufim crossing.
The rocket barrage that followed sent two women and a 13-year-old girl into shock when a Kassam exploded in central Ashkelon. Two more rockets landed just outside the city limits.
Several greenhouses in the western Negev were damaged by Kassams.
On Sunday, IDF officials alerted security personnel in Gaza vicinity communities to be ready for a resumption of rocket attacks.
While Hamas vowed it "push back any Israeli aggression," IDF officials said Hamas violated the truce by digging the tunnel to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
Sources: The Jerusalem Post, YNet news