Israeli man killed by sniper fire on Gaza border

Defense Ministry worker was fixing fence after storm; Hamas braces for retaliation; Palestinian said wounded by IDF as additional troops deploy

22-year-old Saleh Abu Latif, killed by a Gaza sniper Tuesday, December 24 (photo credit: screen shot/ Channel 2)
22-year-old Saleh Abu Latif, killed by a Gaza sniper Tuesday, December 24 (photo credit: screen shot/ Channel 2)

An Israeli man working on the border fence was killed by sniper fire Tuesday afternoon along the Gaza Strip.

The man, 22-year-old Saleh Abu Latif from the predominantly Bedouin city of Rahat, was working between Nahal Oz and Kfar Aza as a civilian employed by the Israeli Defense Ministry on repairs to a section of the Israel-Gaza border fence damaged in last week’s storm. The fence had collapsed in three locations due to the storm.

Abu Latif sustained a single bullet wound to his chest, according to initial reports. He was evacuated by helicopter to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, and died of his wounds during the evacuation.

The gunfire came from inside Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Two hours after the shooting, Gazan authorities reported that an 18-year-old Palestinian man was moderately wounded from IDF fire east of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip. The young man was reportedly evacuated to the hospital. It was not immediately clear if IDF troops were operating in the area, which is located a few kilometers from the site of the sniper shooting.

The IDF deployed additional forces to the Gaza border area after the shooting, and asked Israeli farmers whose fields are adjacent to the Gaza border fence to avoid working in their fields for the immediate future.

Hamas ordered the evacuation of its security installations and bases in the Gaza Strip ahead of the expected Israeli retaliation, according to the Palestinian daily Al Quds.

Israeli sources say Hamas has pointedly neglected its duties under agreements reached following last year’s Operation Pillar of Defense, according to which Hamas was responsible for patrolling the Gazan side of the border and preventing attacks on Israel from the Strip.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in nearby Sderot at the time of the attack for the inauguration of a new train station, said he would not allow terror attacks to go unpunished.

“Our policy has been to foil terror attempts ahead of time and respond forcefully, and that’s how we will act in this case as well,” he said.

Moments before the attack Netanyahu warned that Israel’s policies should make anyone think twice about attacking the country.

He also praised the “quiet” in the south since an Israeli offensive in November 2012.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Shmuel Zakai, former head of IDF’s Gaza Division, told Israel Radio shortly after the shooting that there was “clearly an escalation of terror incidents” in recent weeks.

Nevertheless, he said, “Israel must continue along the delicate path that intercepts the terror activity with good intelligence and precision operations, not with a response that is overly aggressive and could lead to a further escalation in the area.”

On Monday, troops fired on a Palestinian man near the northern border of the Gaza Strip.

According to the IDF Spokesperson, the Palestinian was spotted placing an explosive device near the border fence. Israeli soldiers fired at his lower extremities.

The 20-year-old man suffered moderate gunshot wounds to the leg and abdomen, the Palestinian Ma’an News reported.

There have reportedly been several attempts to place explosives on the border fence in the past several days.

Earlier in the day Monday, Gazans fired a rocket that landed near a children’s bus stop in the Ashkelon area.

The IDF said it would not change plans to ease restrictions on Palestinian Christians in the West Bank and Gaza for the Christmas holiday.

A spokesperson declined to comment on steps the army may take to increase its level of readiness in the face of the string of attacks.

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