IDF soldier killed in gun battle near Tul Karm
Militant believed responsible for Tel Aviv club bombing also killed; three Qassam rockets hit near Sderot.
An Israel Defense Forces soldier was killed and another lightly wounded in a gun battle with wanted Palestinians near the West Bank city of Tul Karm before dawn Monday. An Islamic Jihad leader suspected of involvement in a February suicide bombing in Tel Aviv was also killed in the clashes.
The IDF fatality was identified as Staff Sergeant Dan Talasnikov, 21, from Nir Galim. He was laid to rest Monday in the Nir Galim cemetery.
Later on Monday, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired three Qassam rockets at Sderot. All three of the rockets landed in empty fields near the western Negev town, and caused no damage or injuries.
"Today, the Israeli town of Sderot, which lies within the Israeli consensus, was hit by a Qassam rocket attack. The Palestinian Authority continues to refuse to fulfill commitments made in the February 8 Sharm el-Sheikh summit to stop this terror, originating from its territory. Israeli civilians continue to be the target of these attacks, and the PA must once and for all take the necessary measures to stop these launchings," David Baker, an official in the prime minister's office, said.
Palestinian residents of the village of Seideh said troops entered before dawn and imposed a curfew during their search for suspects. Israeli sources said troops were searching for members of the terror cell that orchestrated the attack at Tel Aviv's Stage nightclub, in which five Israelis were killed.
During their search, IDF troops from the paratrooper reconnaissance unit exchanged fire with Palestinian militants hiding in an open area east of Saideh, Israel Radio reported.
Palestinian sources identified the Jihad militant killed in the ensuing clashes as Shafiq Abdul Rani, 37, one of the leaders of the group's military wing in the Tul Karm area, Israel Radio reported. He had been arrested for his alleged involvement in the Tel Aviv bombing, but escaped from a Palestinian prison about two weeks ago, according to the report.
A second militant was moderately wounded by IDF fire and escaped, but was subsequently found and arrested.
Seideh was one of several villages which Palestinian authorities demanded be included in the March handover of Tul Karm to Palestinian security control. However, Israel refused, saying the villages were full of militants, including those behind the Tel Aviv bombing.
On Sunday IDF troops briefly entered Tul Karm itself, for the first time since the handover. They arrested a man they said was an Islamic Jihad militant about to carry out a suicide bombing, who was also suspected of involvement in the Stage attack. As part of the handover agreement, Israel retains the right to stop what it calls "ticking bombs," or imminent attacks.