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IDF to probe anti-tank missile attack on bus near border that injured soldier

Vehicle had been full of troops moments before it was hit by Gaza projectile; soldier’s father: ‘They took them to the border and lined them up like sitting ducks’

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A picture taken on November 12, 2018, shows a bus set ablaze after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, at the Israel-Gaza border near the kibbutz of Kfar Aza, on November 12, 2018. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)
A picture taken on November 12, 2018, shows a bus set ablaze after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, at the Israel-Gaza border near the kibbutz of Kfar Aza, on November 12, 2018. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

The Israeli army on Tuesday said it would investigate an anti-tank guided missile attack that targeted a bus near the Gaza border a day earlier and seriously injured a soldier.

The head of IDF Ground Forces Maj. Gen. Kobi Barak ordered an investigation into the incident at the Black Arrow memorial site in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, a few hundreds meters from the Gaza fence.

The bus had been parked at the site in full view of the Gaza border, and dozens of soldiers had been on it moments before the anti-tank guided missile struck the vehicle.

A video published by Hamas on Monday night showed that the cell that fired the missile had been observing troops at the site for some time before choosing to fire at the bus.

The military had been aware of the risks of such an attack beforehand, as seen in its decision to halt train service nearby and order other precautionary measures in the area.

According to Channel 10 news, the bus that was hit in the strike had initially been prevented from entering the Black Arrow memorial site out of security concerns, but was eventually allowed in.

However, this did not account for the other military vehicles and soldiers who could be seen at the site and were similarly unprotected from anti-tank missiles, apparently in violation of military protocol.

The investigation into the troops’ actions will be led by Brig. Gen. Amir Ebstein, commander of the IDF’s Border Defense Array.

The attack on the bus came less than a day after an IDF special forces officer was killed in an operation gone awry that also killed seven Palestinian gunmen in the Strip. Following Sunday night’s incident, the Gaza-ruling terror group Hamas said “the blood of our righteous martyrs will not be wasted.”

The father of the injured soldier railed against the military’s conduct. “Why was my son there? I don’t understand what they were doing by the border,” he told Hadashot news. “They took them to the border and lined them up like sitting ducks.”

The condition of the soldier has significantly improved. Doctors at Beersheba’s Soroka hospital said Tuesday that the 19-year-old soldier, who was brought in with life-threatening injuries, had undergone two major operations and that his condition had subsequently improved.

The soldier’s mother asked for prayers for her son’s recovery. She told Hadashot news that he was still in the intensive care unit at Soroka.

“I am asking that you pray for my son’s recovery and that my son opens his eyes,” she said. “We are hoping that he will [open his eyes] by this evening.”

Meanwhile, the driver of the bus said Tuesday that he was in “total shock” and struggling to recover emotionally from the attack, which marked the beginning of a significant flareup between Israel and Palestinian terror groups.

Smoke from the Israeli bus hit by mortar fire from Gaza on November 12, 2018. (Screen capture/Hadashot news)

The 25-year-old driver, a resident of one of the Bedouin communities in the Negev region, works for a transportation company that had been hired by the IDF. He returned Tuesday to the hospital, even though he was released on Monday after receiving medical treatment.

“I’m in total shock, I still don’t know what’s happening with me,” he told Hadashot, adding that he was “trying to recall what happened yesterday.”

The driver’s relatives said he was under severe emotional stress and finding it hard to speak following the incident.

“What he manages to say is that he was driving soldiers,” one of them told Hadashot. “After they disembarked there was a big blast and since then he has tried and struggled to recollect that.”

The afternoon attack on the bus near the Gaza border touched off a massive flareup of violence that has seen more than 460 rockets fired at Israel and massive retaliatory airstrikes by Israel on Gaza, bringing the sides to the brink of war.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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