The Israeli military confirmed the incident around the Gaza buffer zone was a case of "friendly fire" [EPA]

An Israeli soldier has been killed and four others injured when they fired on each other in the buffer zone between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Gaza City, said that a so-called "friendly fire" incident had occurred.

"The soldiers fired on each other, but initial clashes began when Palestinian fighters were caught by Israeli troops planting a mine along the buffer zone, and it was thought that the soldiers were hurt in that gunfight," she said.

A preliminary investigation by the Israeli army concluded that friendly fire was responsible for the soldier's death and for the wounding of the other soldiers.

Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, also reported that the army had launched mortars at the fighters, but for some unknown reason one of the mortars strayed and struck the soldiers.

Serious incident

This was the most serious incident for the army in the Gaza area since two soldiers were killed in March 2010.

In December 2008, Israel launched its devastating "Operation Cast Lead" offensive against Gaza in response to rocket and mortar fire.

The 22-day war, which ended in a ceasefire on January 18, 2009, killed 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 13 Israelis, 10 of them soldiers.

Since then, the number of attacks has dropped significantly, although 230 rockets and mortar rounds were fired at Israel last year, according to army figures.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies