Under the cover of fog, militants approached the border with five horses laden with explosives and bombs as well as a truck, the officer said. In the gunbattle that ensued, at least four Palestinian gunmen were killed by Israeli troops, he said. Palestinian media reports in Gaza indicated five gunmen were killed.
Lt. Gen. Avinoam Stolovitch said the alertness of troops prevented a large scale attack. Speaking on Israeli television, Stolovitch said at least 10 militants participated in the attack.
"Troops spotted the horses and several of the militants approaching the border. Luckily we succeeded in stopping them in the early stages. It is clear they planned to launch a large scale attack in the area," he said.
Troops had no concrete intelligence such an attack was to take place, he said.
The confrontation escalated as Palestinians fired mortars and antitank missiles at Israeli troops, who returned fire with tank shells. An Israeli helicopter fired on vehicles gunmen were using to try to escape, The Jerusalem Post said.
The Israeli military said the group had a mortar shell brigade and intended to hit the army or an Israeli community, the Post said.
After the attack, Israel closed the Karni crossing, the main commercial terminal between Israel and Gaza, and the Nahal Oz fuel depot.