Netanyahu, IDF Chief Warn of ‘Firm’ Response to Gaza Sniper Attack
In response to a Palestinian sniping attack against an IDF patrol along the Gaza border Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised “a firm response against every attempt to disrupt the quiet in the south.”
The sniper hit a soldier from a Bedouin reconnaissance unit in the chest, according to the IDF Spokesman. The soldier, who was part of a patrol guarding work on the security fence along the southern end of he coastal enclave, was helicoptered to a Beersheba hospital with serious wounds, Ynet News reported.
“We will respond forcefully every time there will be an attempt to disrupt the quiet that was achieved after Operation Protective Edge,” Netanyahu said in a statement sent to reporters.
The army quickly responded to the shooting with tank fire at the source of the gunfire, and an airstrike at unspecified targets, reportedly killing the chief of Hamas’ surveillance unit.
IDF Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, said the army “will not allow such events to pass without a response.”
“There is a likelihood that events will deteriorate and develop into a significant event, linked between the fronts,” Gantz cautioned.
Palestinians reported one dead and two wounded in the IDF retaliation.
Hamas’ Interior Ministry instructed personnel to clear out of structures east of Khan Yunis, fearing more Israeli counterstrikes.
“The occupation is playing with fire, and the occupation will pay the price,” a Hamas spokesman threatened.
“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,” IDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in response to the event.
“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,” Lerner said in a statement to reporters.
In an address to an economic conference on Wednesday, Gantz emphasized that “instability in the region regularly characterizes the IDF’s life. We have no intention of allowing these challenges to pass without a response. We responded and will respond strongly, if required. A senior Hamas military commander was killed in the incident, the most serious one along the Gaza border since the end of Operation Protective Edge.”
Israeli police and security officials instructed local farms and kibbutzim to pull their workers out of fields adjacent to Gaza for their safety.
In a related and dramatic policy shift announced Monday, Israel’s Home Front Command is recommending that residents in dozens of communities near the border with Gaza be evacuated in the event of any new sustained clash between the IDF and terrorist rocket and mortar fire, Israel Defense said.
Dozens of towns and kibbutzim containing some 10,000 residents living within seven kilometers of the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave suffered the bulk of over 4,000 rockets and mortars fired by terrorists during this summer’s Operation Protective Edge.
The much heralded Iron Dome anti-missile system, while capable of knocking mid-range (roughly 7 to 80 kilometers) rockets like Qassams and longer-range Grads out of the sky, is far less able to lock on to and hit smaller, short-range mortar shells.