An IDF tracker, a reserve service non-commissioned officer (NCO), was killed early Tuesday morning by sniper fire in the course of an army operation in the Gaza Strip. The troops operated near the al-Muasi refugee camp and the soldier, who accompanied a reserve force active in the region, was shot in the head. He sustained critical head injuries and died shortly after.
The killed NCO, whose name has not been cleared for publication so far, is a Bedouin resident of one of the unrecognized Negev villages. The man was laid to rest in his community Tuesday afternoon. He is survived by ten children.
A member of the Popular Resistance Committees said that members of the organization's military wing, the Salah al-Din Brigades, were behind the killing of the soldier. An al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades activist also claimed that his group was responsible for the attack.
An initial inquiry of the incident revealed that the tracker led the force to a shed where terrorists were thought to be hiding. At least two gunmen were apparently hiding at the place and opened fire at the force from a short range. The tracker was hit in his head and the terrorists managed to escape the scene.
The IDF will investigate whether the force operated properly in terms of protection, and whether it was prepared for the possibility of an attack.
Movement inside the Gaza Strip is being carried out solely by use of armored vehicles, for fear terrorists will open fire or launch missiles at the units.
In Tuesday's incident, the tracker was forced to get off the vehicle and scan the ground on foot, and it is possible that the cover provided to him was inadequate. However, Southern Command officials said that the incident was still under investigation and that no final conclusions could be drawn at this stage.
The troops were operating in the area at a distance of several hundred meters from the border fence, in a bid to uncover terror infrastructure. During the night reserve forces entered the area accompanied by army trackers, engineering corps units and tanks to provide cover.
The personal weapon of the nontracker was apparently taken by terrorist.
A reserve force scan of the area following the incident discovered several Kalashnikov riffles, which attest to terrorist habitation in the structure
Gaza operations ongoing
Parallel to the operations in Kissufim, since the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit the IDF have operating continuously in the Gaza Strip on the brigade and regiment levels. Despite the severe Palestinian resistance the troops are meeting there, which includes antitank missile fire, the army has recorded no exceptional incidents recently. The last incident was in the al-Atatra area of northern Gaza, when a Golani Brigade soldier was killed in a raid.
Site of the clashes (Photo: AP)
In the past three months of IDF operations, over 200 Palestinian terrorists were killed, including cells that tried to perpetrate missile attacks against soldiers and plant explosives or breach the security fence.
Southern Command officials described terrorists’ motivation to attack forces operating in the Strip as “high,” as was their motivation to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians. Evidence of this could be seen, for example, in the exposure two weeks ago of a massive tunnel under a north Gaza neighborhood, which was apparently intended for use in an attack on the Karni goods crossing.
The operations in Gaza were effected by the fighting in the north against Hizbullah, especially with the transfer of large forces from the Strip to the northern border. With that, the Gaza Division under the command of Brigadier General Moshe (Chico) Tamir continued to operate and arrest terror operatives in the Palestinian territory.
Southern Command officials clarified that the IDF would continue to operate in Gaza and would even boost activities in an effort to reduce Qassam rocket attacks towards Sderot and other Israeli border communities to a minimum. In recent weeks a significant drop in rocket attacks was seen. Likewise, operations to return Shalit would also continue, officials noted.
Ali Waked contributed to the report