The Israeli army said it has stopped an attempt by more than a dozen Palestinian fighters to infiltrate southern Israel through tunnels in Gaza, as a temporary humanitarian truce came into effect in the enclave.

An Israeli military statement said the gunmen from Hamas intended to attack Kibbutz Sufa on Thursday when they were repelled by an air attack by the Israeli air force.

Eight fighters were killed in the attack and five others fled in the operation, Israel said.

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Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesmanm said: "We will continue to prevent, pursue and counter-strike the actions of the terrorist organisation.

The Qassam Brigade, the armed wing of Hamas, denied any of its fighters had been killed in the incident.

The attempted attack came amid continued Israeli attack on Gaza in the run up to a temporary truce between Israel and Palestinian fighters to allow humanitarian aid to enter the area.

The army said early on Thursday that Israel had conducted 37 raids overnight on Gaza, while seven rockets were fired from Gaza, four of which landed in fields and the rest were intercepted by Israel's missile defences, the AFP news agency reported.

The truce came into effect at 10am (7am GMT). The Israeli military reported three mortar bombs landed in southern Israel after the truce started, while sources told Al Jazeera that Israeli tank fire hit Rafah. However, the truce was largely observed.

Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker said the truce would allow some repairs to infrastructure, such as electricity lines.

It comes a day after four children were killed when the Israeli army shelled a beach near Gaza's port.

The Israeli army said it was targeting "Hamas terrorists" and would investigate the incident.

Responding to a question on the killing, the US State Department spokesman said the deaths were of "great concern" but said Hamas had not abided by an alleged ceasefire.

"They’re putting their own people at risk by continuing to escalate the situation on the ground," Jen Psaki said.

Al Jazeera's Dekker, who was at the scene when the incident happened, said she had seen no evidence of Hamas targets in the area.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies