Palestinian witnesses and hospital officials said that an Israeli aircraft fired two missiles east of Gaza City early Sunday at an armored car belonging to the Reuters news agency, moderately wounding five people, including two cameramen.
The Israeli army said it did not realize the car’s passengers were journalists and only attacked because the vehicle was driving in a suspicious manner near Israeli troops in the middle of a combat zone. A Hamas militant was killed in another air strike, hospital officials reported.
The violence came as Israeli soldiers - backed by two dozen tanks, two bulldozers, helicopters and drone planes - moved into an area just inside the Gaza Strip near the Karni crossing, witnesses and Palestinian security officials said.
The army said the troops were searching for explosives planted by Palestinian militants alongside the border fence and for tunnels under the border. After the operation began, groups of militants repeatedly gathered to try to attack the soldiers, the army and witnesses said.
The Reuters cameraman, Fadel Shama’a, 23, and Sabah Hamida, 25, who worked for a local television company, opened the doors of their armored vehicle and were about to get out in the nearby Shajaiyeh neighborhood to film the raid when it was struck by the missiles, according to Shamas Odeh, chief of Reuters TV in Gaza.
The cameramen, along with three bystanders, were moderately injured with shrapnel wounds and all five were sent for surgery, hospital officials said. The front seats of the car were covered in blood and shrapnel had ripped up much of the inside of the vehicle. One of the bulletproof windows was completely destroyed. The white sports utility vehicle was emblazoned with the Reuters logo and had “TV” And “Press” Written on it in English, Arabic and Hebrew.
“This is a cold-blooded crime,” said Mohammed Dawdi, head of the local journalists union. Capt. Noa Meir, an army spokeswoman, said the vehicle was the only one in the combat area, was driving suspiciously and came near Israeli forces during the nighttime raid. “That’s why it was targeted. It was seen as a threat,” she said. “There were no clear TV marks (on the car). At least we didn’t see one.”
Hamas militant killed
“It’s unfortunate when journalists get hurt, but that is not the intention,” Meir said.
However, the area was an active battlefield and the reporters should not have been there, she said, adding that three Hamas militants attacked soldiers from the same spot 10 minutes after the air strike.
During the raid early Sunday, aircraft repeatedly fired missiles into fields where Palestinian militants were gathering on the edge of Shajaiyeh, killing a Hamas militant, rescue officials said.
Ambulance drivers reported coming under fire from Israeli helicopters as they tried to retrieve the body. The army said it was checking the report.
The army also told residents in three nearby buildings to evacuate their houses as bulldozers cleared land near the border, witnesses said. Soldiers also took over some rooftops and searched several houses, they said.
In the West Bank, Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen traded heavy fire during a standoff at a fugitives’ hideout Saturday, and doctors said a 16-year-old Palestinian was killed.
Army pulls out of Nablus
Twenty Palestinians were wounded in the clashes in the West Bank city of Nablus, the doctors said. The Nablus standoff began early Saturday when troops surrounded a four-story apartment building where the army said two Palestinian fugitives were hiding. Troops called on the fugitives to surrender, but by mid-afternoon, they were still inside the building.
The army brought in bulldozers that started chipping away at the walls of the building and destroyed a water tank. At one point, the building came under heavy automatic fire by the army.
The troops also fired at a neighboring house, where gunmen were seen shooting at the force.
Bulldozers and army vehicles driving through the neighborhood were showered with stones. The army said Palestinians fired at the troops and in two cases also hurled explosive devices. Troops fired back, in one incident wounding a Palestinian in the lower part of his body, the army said.
A 16-year-old Palestinian arrived dead at a local hospital with a shot to the back, doctors said. Twenty more Palestinians were wounded, half of them by live fire and the others by rubber-coated steel bullets, doctors said. One of the wounded was in critical condition with an abdominal wound, doctors said.
The wanted militants belonged to the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Fatah. They are believed to be explosive experts.
Late Saturday, the army pulled out of Nablus without arresting anyone.
On Friday the IDF launched an air strike on the home of Ziad Tanbura, a member of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing.
According to Palestinian sources, the IDF warned the house residents before the strike, but three people were lightly wounded. IDF officials said that weapons were stored in the house.
Following the IDF's strikes in the past two days, members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades have threatened to carry out suicide bombings in Israel .
According to a statement issued by the organization on the Maan news agency, "the policy of bombing the homes of our activists will only add to our devotion in choosing resistance."