Two Killings of Israeli Soldiers Not a Trend, Military Chief Says

Chief of Staff Benny Gantz calls the incidents 'a tragic conjunction of events,’ not an escalation of Palestinian terror.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The killing of two Israeli soldiers in the West Bank over the last three days doesn’t reflect a trend toward rising Palestinian terror, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said Monday.

Sgt. Tomer Hazan was killed Friday after a Palestinian coworker lured him to the West Bank, and his body was found Saturday. The following day, Staff Sgt. Gal Kobi was killed at a checkpoint in Hebron, apparently by sniper fire.

In response to the killings, the IDF has beefed up its forces in the West Bank. Still, defense officials see the killings as two isolated and unrelated incidents.

“I think the incidents that occurred were a tragic conjunction of events; we don’t see this as a trend,” Gantz said. “But we have to work to make sure that it doesn’t become a trend,” he said at an event for outstanding combat soldiers at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.

To this end, IDF forces have stepped up their activity, Gantz added. On Monday, they arrested 12 Palestinians in the West Bank and confiscated two hunting rifles in Hebron.

“I have no doubt that we’ll get our hands on the perpetrators of these crimes and continue to maintain security in an optimal fashion,” Gantz said.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who conducted a situation assessment Monday with senior IDF and Shin Bet security service officers in light of the two killings, vowed that “the IDF and the security services will get their hands on the terrorist and those who sent him and settle accounts with them.”

He was referring to the perpetrator of the sniper attack in Hebron. Hazan’s killer has already been arrested and is thought to have acted alone.

The IDF, however, has no leads as to who was behind the Hebron attack. One possibility is that the sniper, like Hazan’s killer, was a lone wolf with no connections to any terrorist organization. If so, he might be difficult to find.

The IDF continued to search Hebron for clues Monday. In the morning, Central Command chief Nitzan Alon toured the area with Brig. Gen. Tamir Yedai, commander of the West Bank Division.

A few hours later, clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers in the city. According to the IDF, around 100 Palestinians gathered near the Jewish settlement in Hebron and threw stones and Molotov cocktails. One soldier was lightly wounded by a Molotov cocktail.

The soldiers responded by firing tear gas and stun grenades, and also opened fire with a Ruger rifle, which uses 0.22-caliber bullets, much smaller than a regular rifle. A Ruger lightly wounded two Palestinians.

Also Monday, Kobi was laid to rest in Haifa’s military cemetery. Thousands of people arrived to mourn the 20-year-old from Tirat Hacarmel.

“The choice to become a combat soldier isn’t an obvious one,” said his battalion commander, Danny Oken, in his eulogy. “This choice says a lot about Gal, about the values in which he was educated and the house in which he was raised. He was head and shoulders above the rest, a leading soldier.”

Soldiers preventing Palestinians from leaving Hebron on September 22, 2013 following the death of an Israeli soldier after he was shot by a suspected Palestinian gunman.Credit: AFP

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