IDF believes Gaza snipers used Iranian armor-piercing rifle to kill soldier

The standard ceramic vest Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi was wearing when he was fatally shot in the chest near the border Friday cannot stop the advanced weapon

A Steyr IWS 2000 armor-piercing rifle, illustrative (Public Domain/US Army)
A Steyr IWS 2000 armor-piercing rifle, illustrative (Public Domain/US Army)

An initial investigation by the IDF has concluded that Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi, killed Friday by Palestinian sniper fire on the Gaza border, was hit by an armor-piercing bullet fired from an Iranian-manufactured rifle, Hadashot TV news reported Sunday.

The gun used in the attack was said to be an Iranian replica of an Austrian Steyr rifle.

According to the report, the IDF was aware Hamas was in possession of such weapons, which can penetrate the standard ceramic vests used by the majority of soldiers.

However, given the low likelihood of the rifle’s use, and the heavier weight of vests capable of protecting from such bullets, more specialized protective wear is only used in special cases.

A photo released on July 21, 2018, shows Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi of the IDF’s Givati Brigade, who was killed by sniper fire from Gaza on July 20. (Israel Defense Forces)

As the military continued to investigate the circumstances of Levi’s death, hundreds participated in the soldier’s funeral in Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv.

Levi, 21, an infantry soldier in the Givati Brigade, was close to Kibbutz Kisufim by the Gaza border when he was shot at around 5:30pm on Friday.

The attack took place during the weekly border protests, and the army said he was killed by a Hamas gunman and that there was an exchange of fire.

He was the first IDF fatality on the Gaza front since Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

He was wearing a bulletproof vest when he was hit in the chest, and was initially listed as seriously wounded but his condition deteriorated quickly.

In response to Levi’s death the Israel Air Force launched a major wave of strikes on Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip on Friday evening.

Explosions are seen following Israeli strikes in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on July 20, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

The army said around 60 targets were hit, including three Hamas brigade headquarters in Zeitoun, Khan Younis and al-Bureij. The army said the headquarters were completely destroyed along with “weapons and ammunition stores, training grounds, observation posts, control centers and the offices of the brigade commander.”

The IDF said it also destroyed factories and machinery for the manufacture of weapons, a drone storage facility, an entry shaft to tunnels and “elements for constructing underground infrastructure.”

Four Gazans — three of them confirmed by the Hamas terror group as its members — were killed in Friday’s violence.

Following the attacks, rocket warning sirens wailed in communities around Gaza. At least two projectiles were launched and intercepted by the Iron Dome system and another fell in an open field, the army said.

A ceasefire was reached with Egyptian mediation within hours, and it has generally held since Friday night, though on Saturday Israeli tanks twice carried out reprisal strikes at Hamas observation posts inside the Strip.

The IDF said the first strike was in response to an attempted infiltration of the border fence in northern Gaza, while the second strike came after a flaming balloon launched from the Strip sparked a fire in nearby Kibbutz Nahal Oz.

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