The Israeli army announced Saturday the deaths of two of its soldiers in a clash with Gaza fighters who it said had breached Israel's border, hours after they had been reported wounded.
An army statement said the two, Sergeant Adar Bersano, 20, from Nahariya, and Major Amotz Greenberg, 45, from Hod Hasharon, were killed fighting a group of fighters who infiltrated Israel through a tunnel from the centre of the Gaza Strip.
The army had earlier said two soldiers were wounded in a clash with the fighters from Gaza, who had been "aiming to carry out a lethal attack in one of the nearby communities".
The fighters had fired machineguns and an anti-tank missile at the soldiers, who returned fire, "killing a terrorist and forcing the rest back into Gaza".
Hamas's military wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, said 12 of their men stayed "behind enemy lines" for six hours before engaging in "direct confrontation with the enemy to avenge the blood of our martyrs, particularly the children."
Hamas claimed they "killed six soldiers on patrol and wounded several others," but the Israeli army said there were only two deaths.
In a separate clash later Saturday, Israeli forces killed two fighters in southern Gaza who had fired shots and an anti-tank missile at a nearby force, the army said.
Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades said its fighters clashed with "Israeli special forces" in a house east of Khan Yunis, in southern Gaza, wounding some of them.
The army denied any soldiers were wounded in this incident.
The deaths of the soldiers raise to three the number of troops killed since Israel launched a military attack on Gaza on July 8.
In the same period two Israeli citizens have been killed by Gaza rockets, a Bedouin man near Israel's nuclear reactor in the southern town of Dimona on Saturday and a man near the border with Gaza on Tuesday.
Israeli fire has killed 341 Palestinians in Gaza, with the toll spiralling since the Israeli occupation forces on Thursday pressed a ground assault on Gaza, after 12 days of air strikes.
The story has been edited by Ahram Online.