A Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell attempted to down an Israeli military helicopter during the last round of fighting in Gaza early this month, according to a report Monday in the Jerusalem-based Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds.
The attack failed, according to the report.
Just before the Islamic Jihad operatives could launch a shoulder-mounted missile at the chopper, which was operating near Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip, they were spotted by an Israeli jet and destroyed from the air, the paper said, citing unnamed officials from Gaza-based terror groups as its sources.
There was no immediate confirmation of the Palestinian report from Israeli sources.
The Iran-backed Islamic Jihad later confirmed that it carried out the attack, identifying one of the operatives who was killed as he aimed the missile at the helicopter as Bilal al-Bina, a senior officer in the group’s air defense unit.
The terror group said al-Bina was killed attempting to shoot down the helicopter on May 5.
The reported incident took place during a two-day escalation in Gaza that saw terror groups in the Strip fired nearly 700 rockets and missiles, mostly aiming for Israeli population centers. Four Israelis were killed in the barrages.
In response, the IDF carried out some 350 airstrikes on Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in the Palestinian territory. Twenty-five Palestinians were reported killed, many of them acknowledged members of terror groups.
The newspaper cited Gazan officials who claimed the attempt to down an Israeli helicopter was a response to “the occupation forces bombing civilian buildings and killing of civilians,” according to a translation carried by Israel’s Channel 12.
Israeli Air Force helicopters are equipped with anti-missile systems, but missiles have on occasion been able to penetrate these defenses, including in the case of a Yas’ur transport helicopter downed by Hezbollah fire during the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006.