An IDF Special Forces’ officer was killed and another moderately injured during operational activity inside the Gaza Strip.
By: Max Gelber, Unite with Isreal
An IDF Special Forces’ officer was killed and another moderately injured on Sunday night during what the IDF termed as “operational activity” inside the Gaza Strip near the city of Khan Younis.
The officer was identified only as Lieutenant Colonel M., 41, married and a father of children. No further details were provided about his unit or the circumstances of his death.
Soroka Hospital in Beersheba, to which the wounded officer was evacuated by helicopter, said he was in stable condition.
The details surrounding the operation are sketchy, but it is clear that at some point the IDF force operating inside the Strip encountered a Hamas unit and a massive battle ensued, during which the IDF officer was killed.
Hamas said that Israeli undercover forces in a civilian vehicle infiltrated three kilometers (two miles) into Gaza, where they were exposed.
The incident started with the assassination of a senior Hamas military leader, Al-Qassam Brigades battalion commander Nour Baraka, 37, the terror group added.
Another five Hamas terrorists were killed in the incident; seven were wounded.
The Israel Air Force (IAF) ran several bombing sorties over the battle area during the heavy exchange of fire, presumably in an attempt to cover the force’s retreat.
Act of Valor
The IDF clarified that the objective of the operation was not abduction or assassination.
“The special operation yesterday was not intended to kill or abduct terrorists, but to strengthen Israeli security,” the IDF tweeted. “The force waged a heroic and very complex battle and was able to exfiltrate in its entirety. We salute the bravery of Lt. Col. M. and his peers.”
“Lt. Col. M. fell in heroic activity,” said IDF Spokesman Ronen Manlis, “A special force set out to carry out activities that would help in dealing with threats. The moment they encountered problems, they acted in the best possible way. We will not go into the detail of the person killed, but he is a man of many achievements.”
The force’s actions “were determined and courageous, their rescue was an act of heroism that will yet be discussed,” he added.
Israeli military analysts believe that the covert operation was not an attempted assassination against Hamas targets, but rather a routine intelligence gathering activity that was compromised when the troops were exposed, prompting the exchange of gunfire.
After the incident, Gaza-based terrorists fired 17 rockets at the Eshkol Region near the Strip, targeting a population of some 14,000 civilians. The Iron Dome defense system intercepted three of the explosive projectiles. All other rockets fell short of their targets. No injuries or damage were caused by the rockets inside the Israeli communities.
Following a situation assessment conducted by the IDF Monday morning, it was decided that the Israeli Railway line from Ashkelon to Sderot will not operate out of fear that it could be targeted by fire. School has been canceled in the Israeli communities surrounding Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was on an official trip in Europe, cut short his visit and left Paris for Israel.
Hamas Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum praised the Palestinian forces’ response but did not issue further threats towards Israel.
“All praise to the courageous Palestinian resistance which tackled the coward Israeli aggression on Khan Younis,” he stated Sunday night.
The incident occurred just two days after Israel enabled the transfer of $15 million from Qatar to Gaza to pay the salaries of civil servants in an attempt to ratchet down months of Hamas-led violence and terrorism.
Netanyahu told reporters that it was “the right step” at the moment and that he was committed to restoring quiet along the Israel-Gaza border and preventing a humanitarian crisis inside Gaza.
“Every action, without exception, has a price,” he said. “If you can’t handle the price, you cannot lead. And I can handle the price.”
AP contributed to this report.
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