IDF soldier seriously injured in Gaza border incident

Palestinians say Hamas surveillance commander killed in Israeli response to shooting attack on army patrol near Kissufim

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

An IDF soldier wounded in a cross-border attack outside Gaza is carried into Soroka Hospital in the southern city of Beersheba on December 24, 2014 (Flash90)
An IDF soldier wounded in a cross-border attack outside Gaza is carried into Soroka Hospital in the southern city of Beersheba on December 24, 2014 (Flash90)

Palestinians opened fire on an Israeli patrol late Wednesday morning along the southern Gaza Strip. One soldier from the Bedouin Reconnaissance Battalion was shot in the chest and severely injured. He was evacuated to a hospital, the IDF said.

The patrol was operating on the Israeli side of the border near Kibbutz Kissufim when it came under sniper and machine gun fire.

Palestinian sources said that a heavy exchange of fire ensued, with IDF tank fire striking a target east of Khan Younis. The air force also fired on Gaza targets.

Palestinians said that the commander of Hamas’s surveillance unit in the area was killed in the IDF response, Israel Radio reported. Hamas fighters were abandoning positions across the Strip, the report said.

Medical sources said Tayseer al-Ismary, 33, died after being hit by a bullet fired by the IDF, while Hamas sources confirmed he was a member of the movement’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

“This attack, the second of this week, is a lethal violation of the relative quiet along the Gaza border and is a blatant breach of Israel’s sovereignty,” said IDF spokesman Peter Lerner. “The IDF will continue to use all necessary means in order to maintain the safety of the citizens of southern Israel and will not hesitate to respond to any attempt to harm IDF soldiers.”

Israeli farmers were told to cease all work near the border fence, the Ynet news site reported, and roads in the area were closed.

On Friday, after a Palestinian rocket attack prompted an Israeli airstrike, Hamas informed Israel that it was not interested in an escalation in the Gaza Strip, and would crack down on the Palestinians who fired the rocket.

Hamas conveyed its message to Israel through an Egyptian mediator, emphasizing that it did not stand behind the rocket attack — the third of its kind since a ceasefire agreement in August ended the most recent conflagration in the Strip.

The terror group pledged to locate those responsible for firing the projectile, which drew a retaliatory Israeli airstrikes over the weekend. The air raid targeted a Hamas factory that was producing cement to rebuild the attack tunnels destroyed and damaged in last summer’s war, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

The airstrikes Friday night were the first by Israel on the Palestinian enclave since the summer truce that ended the 50-day war between the sides.

Adiv Sterman and AFP contributed to this report.

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