Tunnel attack fears turn Gaza border kibbutzim into ghost towns

Gas deployed by the Israeli army gushes out of a hole in a tunnel, which was used by Hamas militants in an attack on July 21, during an operation to search for tunnels dug by the Palestinian militants, just outside the Gaza Strip July 22, 2014.

(Reuters) – “Residents stay in your homes! Do not go outside!” read the text message sent at dawn to the Israelis living on a kibbutz near the Gaza border, as soldiers searched the grounds for Palestinian gunmen.

While the Nir Am kibbutz was under lockdown on Monday, a deadly battle ensued between the Israeli troops and a squad of Gaza militants, who had tunneled their way across the border and emerged about a mile away from the farm community.

Israel said it killed 10 gunmen in the battle. The military said some were wearing Israeli army uniform and were equipped with explosive belts. Four Israeli soldiers, including the commanding officer, died in the fight.

“The threat of a mortar bomb is nothing compared to a militant force of 10 men coming into our community to carry out a massacre,” said Shaike Shaked, one of the founders of a nearby Israeli agricultural community, Netiv Haasara…

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