Five IDF troops die ahead of Gaza cease-fire deadline

(JTA) — Five Israeli troops died in a mortar explosion near the border with Gaza, hours before a three-day cease-fire with Hamas was to go into effect.

The explosion Thursday night brought Israeli fatalities during Israel’s operation against Gaza to a total of 61, including three civilians. A third was killed inside Israeli territory from explosions caused by projectiles or incursions by Hamas militants.

Fighting and exchanges of fire broke out in Rafah in the Gaza Strip shortly after 8 a.m. Friday, the time designated for the going into effect of a 72-hours ceasefire.

There were reports that Israel declared to U.N. officials that it considered the cease-fire over, and Israel Radio quoted army spokesman as saying that there was a “suspicion” that Hamas had captured an Israeli soldier in a fire-fight in the southern Strip.

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported that 1,437 Palestinians died during the 24 days of fighting between the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas and thousands more were wounded, surpassing the death toll of 1,417 people from Operation Cast Lead of 2008-2009.

Some 5,303 people were injured during Cast Lead, while at least 8,265 have been injured throughout Operation Protective Edge, Ma’an reported.

Also Thursday, three soldiers from the IDF’s Maglan commando unit were laid to rest. They died in an explosion of a booby-trapped house in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.

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