Hamas claims it had IDF chief in its sights

Gaza’s Islamist rulers post video ostensibly showing chief of staff Gantz near border during 2014 war; Channel 2 says film is from months before conflict

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Hamas on Sunday published a short video clip that it claimed showed the-then commander of the Israeli army, Benny Gantz, within rifle range near the border fence with the Gaza Strip during the 2014 fighting in the coastal enclave.

Hamas touted the footage as a demonstration of the surveillance and intelligence capabilities of its military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

However, Israel’s Channel 2 said Monday it had established that the footage was actually of a visit to the area by Gantz four months before the conflict.

In the grainy video, whose authenticity was not immediately verified, several IDF soldiers can be seen clustered around military vehicles apparently near the border with Gaza in the area of Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha. A red circle marks one of the soldiers at the center of the group as Gantz, who headed the IDF during the 50-day-long conflict — dubbed Operation Protective Edge by Israel — with Gaza-based Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups.

The terror group, which is avowedly committed to the destruction of Israel, asserted that Gantz was within range of its snipers. It did not offer an explanation as to why its snipers didn’t take the shot.

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz visits near the border with the Gaza Strip, on July 26, 2014, (photo credit: Judah Ari Gross/IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz visits near the border with the Gaza Strip, on July 26, 2014, (photo credit: Judah Ari Gross/IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

It was not clear from the video how far away the observers were from Gantz at the time it was taken.

Hamas claimed that the video was filmed at the height of the fighting opposite the al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, and that accompanying Gantz was the commander of the Golani infantry brigade, Colonel Ghassan Alian.

Army Radio reported that while higher-ranking IDF commanders by necessity must take the risk of going into the field, regulations call for appropriate precautions to be taken. The report said the IDF was checking the veracity of the film, and if it is verified, those responsible for protecting the IDF chief will need to evaluate the circumstances that led to his exposure.

“If this is all authentic, there are lots of lessons to be learned,” an Army Radio military reporter noted.

Alian was injured during the fighting but later returned to the field.

Gantz ended his term in February and was succeeded as chief of staff by Gadi Eisenkot.

The July-August war killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, according to Palestinian sources in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, and 73 on the Israeli side, 66 of them soldiers. Israel officially blames Hamas for all Palestinian civilian casualties, noting that the group, which rules Gaza, set up its war machine and often launched attacks from within residential areas.

In the conflict, Israeli forces strove to destroy a network of tunnels dug under the border and used by Hamas to launch attacks within Israel as well as stem Palestinian rocket fire at Israeli towns and cities. During the course of the fighting, Palestinians launched over 4,500 rockets and projectiles at Israel.

As both sides of the conflict mark a year since the fighting, Hamas has published various videos claiming achievements during the fighting.

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