Israel-Gaza Border Falls Quiet After IDF Special Forces Mission Goes Awry
The Israel-Gaza Strip border fell quiet on Monday after a botched Israeli undercover operation in the coastal enclave led to fighting in which a Hamas commander, six other Palestinian terrorists and an IDF officer were killed.
Palestinians fired 17 rockets into southern Israel late on Sunday in response to the incursion and air strikes, which Hamas, the ruler of Gaza, said were intended to cover the retreat of a car used by the Israeli troops.
There were no reports of injuries or damage in Israel, but the military said a lieutenant colonel, identified only as “M” had been killed in the raid and another officer wounded.
Hamas said the Israeli actions dealt a blow to Egyptian, Qatari and UN efforts to broker a long-term ceasefire between the Palestinian group and Israel and ease an Israeli blockade that has deepened economic hardship in Gaza.
But neither side appeared eager to pursue broader conflict.
Hamas received $15 million in Qatari-donated cash via Israel on Friday to pay for civil servants’ salaries and fuel to address Gaza’s energy crisis.
No new rocket launches were reported on Monday morning.
Hamas said that during Sunday’s fighting, assailants in a passing vehicle opened fire on a group of its armed men, killing one of its local commanders, Nour Baraka.
A pursuit ensued and witnesses said Israeli aircraft fired more than 40 missiles into the area. Palestinian officials said that in addition to Baraka, five other Hamas men and a member of the Popular Resistance Committees were killed.
In an apparent attempt to defuse tensions, Israel‘s chief military spokesman said the special forces had not been dispatched to assassinate Hamas commanders, a tactic that led to wider conflict in the past and which has largely been abandoned.
The spokesman, Brigadier General Ronen Manelis, told Army Radio that covert missions were mounted frequently, comments that suggested the Israeli force may have been gathering intelligence.
“During the operation, it found itself in a very complex situation, faced by enemy forces. The (Israeli) force, including Lieutenant Colonel M., kept its cool, returned fire and evacuated itself together with the (help of the) air force back into Israel,” Manelis said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a visit to Paris, where he attended World War One commemorations with other world leaders. He returned home early on Monday.