Jerusalem, Jul 29: At least five Israeli soldiers were killed when militants from Gaza crossed into Israel through a tunnel near the border, the military said on Tuesday. The soldiers were killed on Monday night in the ensuing gun battle, a spokesperson with the Israeli military said in a statement.

“The terrorists attempted to execute an attack against Israeli civilians using a tunnel shaft leading to the Nahal Oz community,” Xinhua quoted the statement as saying.  “Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers thwarted the attempt by identifying the squad and opening fire.”

So far, 53 soldiers from IDF and three Israeli civilians have been killed during the military campaign which started July 8. Israel has embarked on a massive offensive on Gaza, saying that it was aimed at stopping rocket fire from the southern Palestinian enclave.

It later said that the purpose of the offensive was to destruct the underground network of cross-border tunnels, which enable militants to slip into Israel. The Palestinian toll in the ongoing offensive has soared to 1,074 with at least 6,500 wounded, the Gaza health ministry said.