JERUSALEM, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi on Tuesday said that an Israeli tank was hit by a Kornet anti-tank missile earlier this month along the Gaza border, suggesting the rising threat by Gaza militants, local news service Ynet reported.
Briefing the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Israel's security, Ashkenazi said the use of the Kornet by Gaza militants was a first-of-its-kind incident.
"On Dec. 6, a Kornet anti-tank missile fired for the first time in Gaza, hit an IDF tank and penetrated its outer shell. Luckily, the missile did not explode inside the tank. We're talking about a massive missile, one of the most dangerous in the battlefield," Ynet quoted Ashkenazi as saying.
While the tank crew was unharmed in the latest incident, the IDF did sustain casualties from the Russian-made Kornet during the 2006 Lebanon War. The Islamic armed group Hezbollah used it against IDF tanks, a Navy missile boat and a heavy transport helicopter and killed the entire crew aboard.
On Sunday, the IDF announced it plans to deploy tanks fitted with a new active armor protection system along the Gaza border, as the threat of anti-tank missile attacks by militant groups is on the rise.
Deployment of the Me'il Ruach (Windbreaker) system is scheduled to begin in January. It will be fitted on the Merkava Mark IV, the IDF's most advanced main battle tank. The army plans to equip more battalions with the system by mid-2011.
Aside from the system, the IDF is changing its tactics along the border with the Palestinian enclave, including limiting the exposure of its tanks, local daily Ha'aretz reported Monday.
Prior to revealing that Gaza militants had managed to obtain the Kornet, Ashkenazi told committee members that "the reality in Gaza could be fragile and explosive."
"We have increased our operations in the south on the backdrop of terrorists' attempts to boost their activity. Most of the IDF's activity in Gaza is directed beyond the fence. We are working some tens and hundreds of meters from the fence, in order to prevent them from reaching communities. Hamas continues to grow stronger," Ynet quoted the IDF chief as saying.
On Tuesday morning, a Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip nearly missed a kindergarten in an Israeli community in western Negev. A 15-year-old girl and a man were slightly wounded and had been transferred to a local hospital.
A total of 10 rockets were launched into the Israeli territory the day before and exploded in open fields, causing no casualties.
The Israeli Air Force struck seven targets in the southern and northern sectors of the Gaza Strip in retaliation on Monday night, which included a Hamas weapons storage. On Saturday, five Palestinian militants were killed in another airstrike.