An IDF soldier was killed on Friday in northern Gaza, becoming the first military fatality since Israel launched a ground offensive in the Palestinian enclave Thursday night.
Sergeant Eitan Barak, 20, from Herzliya, was critically wounded during an operation against rocket launchers in the area of Beit Hanoun and died of his wounds before he could be evacuated. Four other soldiers were injured, one moderately and the rest lightly.
The IDF said late Friday that Barak had “probably” been killed by a tank shell fired in error by the IDF.
IDF Spokesman Moti Almoz said: The ground operation requires “close coordination between infantry forces and tank units.” It seems that this [incident] was a mistake by one of the tanks, that opened fire and killed Eitan Barak. We send our deep condolences to the family. We will continue to learn the lessons.”
The IDF said in a statement that 14 Hamas terrorists were killed in a number of exchanges of fire overnight, 20 rocket launchers were destroyed and nine strikes were carried out on tunnels in Gaza.
More than 50 rockets were fired at Israel since the start of the ground operation Thursday, according to the latest military figures, out of more than 1,500 since the fighting began on July 8.
Israel intensified its 11-day campaign against Gaza’s Hamas rulers by launching a ground operation late Thursday after becoming increasingly exasperated with unrelenting rocket fire from Gaza on its cities, especially following Hamas’s rejection of an Egyptian ceasefire plan earlier in the week.
Israeli aircraft have struck more than 2,000 targets in Gaza since the start of the military operation. More than 250 Palestinians have died in the air campaign.
An Israeli civilian was killed earlier this week near the Erez crossing after being critically injured by mortar fire.