Mother of soldier killed in Gaza: He paid the price of war
Major Eliraz Peretz and Staff Sergeant Ilan Sviatkovsky die in Gaza clash; another soldier in serious condition.
The mother of Major Eliraz Peretz, who was killed during fighting on the Gaza border on Friday, said that her son suffered the agonies of peace and paid the price of war, in an interview to Channel 2.
Miriam Peretz said that Eliraz is like his brother Uriel, who also died during military duty in an explosion in Lebanon in 1998.
"Eliraz is like his older brother Uriel. He experienced the agonies of peace when we were evacuated from Sharm al-Sheikh, and now he experienced the pain of war," she said.
Peretz, 31, from Kiryat Arba, was the deputy commander of the Golani battalion involved in the fighting in Gaza. He and Staff Sergeant Ilan Sviatkovsky, 21, from Rishon Letzion, were killed on Friday.
A fourth soldier sustained wounds, and is now in serious condition following surgery at Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva.
The soldier was diagnosed as in moderate to serious condition and underwent surgery Friday evening; his condition worsened Saturday morning. Doctors say he is suffering from wounds to the chest and stomach and is in intensive care.
The exchange of fire began on Friday morning when IDF troops crossed into Gaza after they spotted militants planting explosives along the security fence on the border.
From an initial military investigation, the troops under Peretz's command encountered the armed Palestinians and opened fire from short range, GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant said Friday.
Apparently, a bullets fired in the soldiers' direction hit a hand grenade lodged in Staff Sgt. Sviatkovsky's vest, and he was killed by the detonation.
Gazan doctors said a 23-year-old civilian was killed in the clash, and five other Palestinians wounded. Hamas and another faction that took part in the fighting said they lost no men.
"I think it's true to say that this is one of the fiercest days we have had since operation Cast Lead happened," IDF spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said.
It was a "tragic and a painful" incident in a zone where there is "an everyday war," with Palestinian gunmen planting explosives near the fence and frequent cross-border fire at ranges of a couple of hundred meters, Leibovich added.
Israeli forces "have to operate from both sides of the fence in order to have a maximum defensive system," she said.
Palestinian sources said five Israeli tanks and two armored bulldozers advanced from the east into Gaza following the clashes, firing shells at targets near the town of Khan Younis in the center of the narrow coastal enclave.
The Gaza-based militant group Popular Resistance Committees confirmed one of its fighters was critically wounded by shelling. Palestinian sources reported Israeli helicopters and unmanned military drones in the skies.
Hamas said its gunmen fired on Israeli soldiers who crossed into the Gaza Strip. Two other groups, Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, said their men also took part in the fighting.
Israel withdrew all troops from the Gaza Strip Saturday.
Israeli troops used bulldozers to flatten infrastructure used by militants to attack soldiers before the early morning withdrawal, a military spokeswoman said.
Hundreds of Hamas supporters took to the streets of Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip to celebrate the killing of the two Israeli soldiers, led by senior Hamas lawamaker Mushir Al-Masri, who praised the battle.
"Entering Gaza is not a picnic," he said. "The Zionists cannot come in anytime they wish and leave anytime and however they want," Masri told the crowd. "The Qassam Brigades (Hamas' armed wing) were ready and taught them a lesson and they should not repeat such a foolish act."
Hamas had largely held its fire since a costly three-week war with Israel in the opening days of 2009 in which some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.
But smaller factions have violated the de facto truce by firing rockets and mortars into neighboring Israeli territory.
Tensions have run high along the Gaza frontier this month, with Israel launching repeated air strikes in response to Palestinian rocket attacks, one of which killed a Thai worker in a kibbutz last week.
Earlier this week, an IDF soldier Sergeant Gabriel Cepic from Zikhron Ya'akov was killed by friendly fire on the border with the Gaza Strip.
Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005. The militant Islamist group Hamas has ruled the enclave since 2007.