GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip
Israeli bulldozers demolished more than a dozen tunnels Saturday that the military said were being used by Hamas gunmen to sneak beneath the southern border of the Jewish state and carry out attacks on its soldiers and civilians.
Palestinians reported intensified airstrikes and shelling as the death toll from Israel’s ground offensive rose to at least 342 Palestinians, including many civilians. Five Israelis — three soldiers and two civilians — also have been killed since the fighting began more than 10 days ago, and dozens of Israelis have been injured as Gaza rockets continue to rain down on Israeli cities.
Israeli soldiers uncovered 34 shafts leading into about a dozen underground tunnels, some as deep as 30 yards, the military said. Israel views the tunnels as a strategic threat, and demolishing them is a high priority in their campaign.
Still, Palestinian gunmen disguised in Israeli uniforms managed to infiltrate Israel from Gaza using another tunnel and Saturday killed two Israeli soldiers and injured several others, the military said. At least one Palestinian was killed in the clash.
Hamas said 12 of its fighters participated in the attack and that the group took some of the soldiers’ weapons back to their hideouts.
In two other confrontations, Palestinian gunmen jumped out of tunnels and shot at soldiers who returned fire. Two of the gunmen were killed. Another militant died when the explosive vest he was wearing went off, the military said.