An IDF special forces soldier has been killed and another wounded during a secret operation inside the Gaza Strip on Sunday night. A senior Hamas commander and seven other Palestinian terrorists were killed.

The goal of the operation was to kill or capture Nur Barakeh, commander of the eastern battalion of Hamas’s Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades in the city of Khan Yunis.

IDF chief Lt Gen Gadi Eisenkot said the Israeli unit had carried out “a very meaningful operation to Israel’s security”.

Due to the secrecy of the mission, we can only speculate as to Israel’s intentions. However, as Barakeh was said to be the head of the tunnel digging operations in that area of Gaza, it is thought that his capture would have been valuable to Israel to locate and destroy Hamas terror tunnels.

The Israeli special forces are said to have entered Gaza in a civilian vehicle and carried out their operation inside the strip where they eliminated Barakeh.

It was when the Israeli forces were returning to Israel that their vehicle suffered an unspecified malfunction which exposed the soldiers and caused them to come under fire from Hamas fighters who were in pursuit.

The Israelis defended their position and called in air support to enable their escape, with the Israeli Air Force carrying out a series of air strikes to cover them and a helicopter was sent to extract them.

An Israeli special forces soldier, known as Lt. Col. “Mem”, was killed and another unnamed Israeli soldier was wounded in the shootout. The soldiers were said to be from an elite IDF unit.

Six of the Palestinians killed belonged to Hamas – the militant Islamist group which controls the Gaza Strip – and the seventh was a member of the militant Popular Resistance Committees, BBC News reported.

The Al-Qassam Brigades issued the following statement:

“A special force of the Zionist enemy infiltrated using a civilian car in the area of ​​the Shahid Ismail Abu Shanab mosque, 3 km east of Khan Younis. This force killed the commander of the Al-Qassam Brigades, Nur Barakeh. After they were exposed and our Mujahideen pursued them and made contact with them, the enemy air force intervened and carried out attacks to cover the retreat of this force, and in the process some of our people were killed.”

Hamas terrorists fired 17 rockets from Gaza into civilians areas of Israel in the early hours of Monday morning. Three of the rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system, one rocket damaged an empty chicken coop and the rest fell into fields and other areas.

Israel announced that schools in the areas close to the Gaza strip would be closed for Monday.

The IDF has also deployed thousands of additional troops along the Gaza border including additional anti-missile equipment in case of further rocket attacks from Hamas.

The incident prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cut short his visit to Paris where he was taking part in commemorative events to mark World War One as well as having meetings with a number of European leaders.

Prior to this incident, the Hamas border was relatively calm due to Israel facilitating the transfer of around $15 million from Qatar to Hamas.