Elite IDF officer killed, another wounded in Gaza ‎flare-up


An Israeli special forces officer was killed and ‎another was wounded on Sunday night during a clash ‎with Hamas operatives in the southern Gaza Strip, ‎the military said. Seven Hamas operatives were ‎killed in the incident.‎

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in Paris ‎‎‎for a summit of world leaders, cut his visit short ‎‎‎and flew back to Israel. He was expected to convene a ‎‎‎security assessment meeting in Jerusalem at noon, ‎‎‎Monday.‎ ‎

Many of the details were not approved for publication due to the sensitive nature of the military action Sunday, but according to available details, IDF special forces ‎‎operating in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis ‎were discovered by Hamas operatives. A fierce ‎gunfight erupted, and the Israeli troops, who ‎eventually found themselves trapped, radioed for ‎aerial assistance, which arrived within minutes, ‎allowing for their extraction.‎

The ‎IDF said it could not release details on the ‎casualties’ identity, naming the slain officer only ‎as Lt. Col. M. ‎

The second officer sustained moderate wounds and was ‎admitted to the Soroka University Medical Center in ‎Beersheba in stable condition, the military said.‎

Sunday’s clash sparked a flare-up on the ‎border as Palestinian terrorists fired 17 ‎projectiles at southern Israel. ‎

The Color Red early warning rocket alert system repeatedly blared across the Gaza-vicinity communities, ‎sending residents scrambling for shelter over a ‎dozen times between 10:45 p.m. and 1:15 a.m. ‎

The military said the Iron Dome air defense system ‎intercepted three rockets, with the others landing ‎in open areas. ‎

The bodies of the Hamas operatives killed Sunday

Following the night’s events, the military ‎reinforced its deployment in the Gaza sector. ‎

Tensions in the area have prompted the Homefront ‎Command to cancel the school day in a number of Israeli border-‎adjacent communities and close several major ‎roads in the area. Train traffic was also suspended south of ‎Beersheba. ‎

Sunday’s development shattered what appeared to be a ‎turning point after months of Palestinian border ‎riots and arson terrorism. Prior to the flare-up, an ‎Egyptian-brokered lull appeared to be holding. ‎

The clashes sparked a wave of online rumors about ‎the nature of the operation in Gaza, with some ‎saying an Israeli soldier had been abducted. ‎

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit eventually issued an unusual statement, clarifying that the operation in Khan Younis was not ‎an ‎assassination raid, but rather an intelligence-gathering ‎mission that went awry, and asking the ‎public “to refrain from spreading unsubstantiated ‎rumors.” ‎

The statement said that while the troops sustained a ‎loss, they were all extracted from the area safely. ‎

In a press briefing, IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. ‎Ronen Manelis said, “IDF troops operating in Gaza ‎with the aim of maintaining Israel’s advantage over its ‎enemies became trapped in a highly complex ‎situation.‎”

‎”The soldiers acted heroically to neutralize the ‎threat and facilitated their extraction back ‎to Israel. Unfortunately, they sustained casualties – ‎Lt. Col. M., whose acts of heroism cannot be made ‎public. Another officer was moderately wounded as ‎well,”‎ the statement said.

Manelis stressed that the aim of the Israeli ‎operation was not the assassination of a Hamas ‎official or the abduction of an enemy agent. ‎

“Those kinds of missions are taken extremely ‎seriously and usually stay under the radar.”

He noted that “IDF forces in the area have been ‎reinforced and remain ready for any scenario.”‎

Gaza’s Health Ministry confirmed that seven people ‎were killed in Sunday’s clash, saying several others ‎were wounded. ‎

Palestinian media shared photos ‎of the vehicle ‎allegedly used by the Israeli ‎forces inside Gaza, ‎saying the car was bombed from the air by Israeli aircraft after the extraction in order to ‎demolish any trace of classified information or equipment.‎

The Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military ‎wing, said that ‎”a special force of the Zionist enemy ‎infiltrated 3 kilometers [2 miles] into Khan ‎‎Younis‎ and assassinated a commander of our forces‎. ‎The withdrawal of the enemy led to the martyrdom of ‎‎a number of people.”‎

Hamas later named the operative killed in the clash ‎as Nour el-Deen Baraka, the local military commander, who was reportedly heavily involved in the terrorist ‎group’s tunnel enterprise.‎

Hamas further accused Israel of sabotaging the ‎emerging cease-fire agreement brokered by Egypt and ‎supported by Qatar, and warned that “Israel will be ‎made to pay for its actions.” ‎

Islamic Jihad warned Monday that the IDF will “pay a ‎heavy price” if it continues to enter the Gaza ‎Strip.

“We are prepared to counter any act of aggression,” ‎the terrorist group said.

The al-Quds Brigades, the Islamic Jihad’s military ‎wing, has placed all of its operatives in Gaza on ‎alert, the group said. ‎

Originally posted at Israel Hayom.

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