Soldier moderately injured by Gaza sniper, 3 Palestinians killed as IDF responds

Israeli security chiefs hold emergency consultations over Palestinian gunfire at border days after soldier killed; IDF airstrikes and tanks target Hamas bases

Illustrative image of explosions from Israeli bombardment in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on July 20, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)
Illustrative image of explosions from Israeli bombardment in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on July 20, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

Soldiers patrolling the southern part of the Gaza Strip border came under fire Wednesday evening from a sniper within the Hamas-controlled territory, according to the IDF.

The Israeli military later said an officer was moderately wounded by the sniper fire. It said he was taken to Soroka Medical Center in the southern city of Beersheba for treatment.

In response, the army said it targeted seven Hamas military positions throughout the Gaza Strip. Hadashot news said both the Air Force and tanks opened fire on targets in the Strip.

Palestinian media reported that Israeli planes shelled various targets throughout the eastern and southern parts of the coastal enclave. A number of casualties were reported.

The Hamas-run health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said in a text message to reporters that three Palestinians were killed and one was seriously wounded in an Israeli attack east of Gaza City. The Hamas-linked Palestinian Information Center also reported that the remains of a person who was killed by Israeli fire arrived at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

All three of the fatalities were members of the Hamas terror group’s military wing, Hamas acknowledged. It vowed to avenge their deaths.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called an emergency meeting of senior IDF generals in the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv in the wake of the shooting, Army Radio reported. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was updated on the consultations.

The Israeli response followed Palestinian gunfire on Israeli soldiers along the Gaza border near Kissufim where dozens of youth were rioting close to where Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi was killed on Friday by Palestinian sniper fire.

Gunmen inside Gaza fired at the Israeli troops, using the youth demonstrators as cover, the army said.

The IDF said Wednesday evening that it holds Hamas responsible for all incidents in the strip.

The army initially declined to comment on whether any of its soldiers were injured in the exchange of fire, but later confirmed that an officer had been moderately wounded.

A photo released on July 21, 2018, shows Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi of the Givati Brigade, who was killed by sniper fire from Gaza on July 20. (Israel Defense Forces)

The incident came just five days after Levi’s squad was targeted. The 21-year-old had been wearing a bulletproof vest when he was hit in the chest, Hadashot TV news reported on Saturday. He was initially listed as seriously wounded but his condition deteriorated quickly.

Levi, a 21-year-old from Petah Tikva, was an infantry soldier in the Givati Brigade. Levi was the first IDF fatality on the Gaza front since Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Military sources told Army Radio late Wednesday that in both the shooting incidents at the border, Hamas encouraged demonstrations by young Gazans at the fence, drawing an IDF patrol, and then its snipers opened fire on the soldiers.

Levi’s death on Friday sparked a wave of Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip. Four Gazans — three of them confirmed by Hamas as its members — were killed in Friday’s violence.

Hadashot TV news reported that while Israel’s response to Sunday’s killing was unusually harsh, the IDF was on the brink of a more dramatic operation when Hamas rushed to agree to a ceasefire. This was not confirmed.

Channel 10 news said that Egyptian mediators warned Hamas that if it responded to Israel’s airstrikes, launched in reprisal for Levi’s killing, Israel would “go to war in two hours.” This, too, was not confirmed. The Channel 10 report said Hamas is demanding an easing of border control with Egypt, and an increase in supplies entering the strip from Israel. It also said Hamas was preparing for the possibility of further escalation and conflict.

A top Israeli official said Hamas had pledged to stop rocket fire, shootings, and kite and balloon arson attacks, but Hamas denied making a commitment as regards kites and balloons.

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