IDF soldier killed by terrorists trying to infiltrate Israel from south Gaza

3 Hamas operatives killed inside Strip by drone strike and tank shelling some 400 meters from border; slain soldier identified as tracker Zeed Mazarib, 34

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Warrant Officer Zeed Mazarib, killed battling Hamas terrorists in the southern Gaza Strip, close to the border, on June 6, 2024. (Courtesy)
Warrant Officer Zeed Mazarib, killed battling Hamas terrorists in the southern Gaza Strip, close to the border, on June 6, 2024. (Courtesy)

An Israeli soldier was killed while battling Hamas terrorists who attempted to infiltrate into Israel from the southern Gaza Strip early Thursday morning, the military said.

The soldier slain in the border clash was named as Warrant Officer Zeed Mazarib, 34, a tracker in the Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade, from the northern Bedouin-majority city of Zarzir.

The attempted infiltration began at around 4 a.m., when soldiers monitoring surveillance cameras spotted suspicious movement amid foggy weather, according to an initial IDF probe.

Troops of the Desert Reconnaissance Battalion — a unit under the Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade, mostly made up of Bedouin soldiers —  were dispatched to the scene inside Gaza, just across from the Israeli border communities of Kerem Shalom and Holit, to search for the suspects.

At around 5 a.m., the soldiers came under fire by the cell, around 400 meters from the Israeli border. The soldiers returned fire at the terrorists and in the exchange, Mazarib was killed.

Moments later, two of the Hamas gunmen were killed in a drone strike, and a short time after that, a third was killed by tank shelling, the IDF said.

The cell was armed with assault rifles and RPGs, according to the probe. Hamas later claimed responsibility for the attempted infiltration.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari in a press conference Thursday evening said the Hamas cell had initially emerged from a tunnel shaft some 200 meters from the border.

He also said that a fourth member of the cell fled the scene.

The IDF said no suspects crossed the security barrier into Israel amid the incident.

Troops of the Bislamach Brigade operate in southern Gaza’s Rafah, in a handout photo published June 6, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Eshkol Regional Council said it was asking the army to explain why it had not updated security teams in the border communities in the area as the incident unfolded.

It said in a statement that council head Gadi Yarkoni had sent a message to Gaza Division chief Brig. Gen. Avi Rosenfeld “demanding to urgently speed up and finish the investigation into the incident and the manner in which reports are transmitted to the towns and the security forces in the council, who were not informed at the time of the incident.”

The incident was one of the few attempted infiltrations into Israel amid the war in the Gaza Strip, which began on October 7 with some 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists bursting into southern Israel, carrying out a murderous rampage of unprecedented intensity and breadth.

The attack claimed the lives of some 1,200 people in Israel, with another 251 people kidnapped and much of the area devastated. Most victims were civilians.

In response, Israel launched a military campaign aimed at destroying Hamas and freeing the hostages, 120 of whom still remain in captivity.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 36,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far. Of these, some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals or through self-reporting by families, with the rest of the figure based on Hamas “media sources.” The tolls, which cannot be verified, include some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

The IDF has said 295 soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border. A civilian Defense Ministry contractor has also been killed in the Strip.

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