The body of a Palestinian reportedly killed by Israeli forces in Gaza at the European Gaza Hospital. Photo: Abed Zagout /Anadolu Agency

The Israeli army said an exchange of fire erupted on Sunday during an operation in the Gaza Strip, while Palestinian officials reported six people killed, including a local commander of Hamas’s armed wing.

“During [Israeli military] operational activity in the Gaza Strip, an exchange of fire evolved. More details to follow,” an Israeli army statement said.

Palestinian security sources said the fighting broke out east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, but further details were not immediately available.

News of the violence prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cut short a trip to Paris on Sunday and return home, his office said.

“In view of the security incidents in the south, the prime minister has decided to cut short his visit to Paris and to return home tonight to Israel,” a statement said.

Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said six Palestinians were killed in the clash. One of the dead was a local commander of Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, a local hospital reported.

After the clash erupted, sirens were reported in southern Israel, indicating possible rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said all Israeli soldiers involved had returned to Israel.

“IDF operated in the Gaza Strip, exchange of gunfire ensued,” he wrote on Twitter, referring to the Israel Defense Forces.

“All IDF soldiers back in Israel. Several alarms have sounded in southern Israel.”

A Hamas spokesman denounced a “cowardly Israeli attack.”

– With reporting from Agence France-Presse

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