The armored personnel carrier in which seven Golani Brigade soldiers were killed when it was attacked early Sunday morning in the Gaza Strip is the oldest model still in use by the Israel Defense Forces.
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The American M113 APC was manufactured in the 1960s, and senior IDF officers were critical of the decision to send it, with its below-standard protection, into battle in the heart of the Shujaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City.
The IDF, and the Golani Brigade in particular, has two APC models that are far better armored – one called the Achzarit and the newer Merkava APC, known by its Hebrew acronym Namer. The army hasn’t used M113s in Gaza for a decade.
In May 2004, during an escalation of violence in Gaza City, 11 soldiers – members of the Givati Brigade and the Engineering Corps’ tunnels unit – were killed in two separate attacks on M113 APCs. The IDF came under heavy criticism for its management of those operations, and since then only heavily armored APCs have been used in the Strip.
In 2003, the State Comptroller’s Office issued a scathing report on the state of the military’s APCs, and warned that better-armed troop carriers ought to be given to advance units at high risk.
Regarding Sunday morning’s attack, IDF sources told Haaretz that some of the APCs that entered Shujaiyeh after the advance forces were of the less-armored model, and that the decision to use them was necessitated by operational circumstances. The carrier was apparently struck by RPG rockets that hit it from the side and rear.