Hamas Bus Attack: Israeli Army Tries to Distance Itself From Security Failure

Israeli army changes its tune after video of strike on bus, which seriously wounded an Israeli soldier, reveals inconsistencies in the army's statements

A bus burns after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, Israel-Gaza border, November 12, 2018.
AFP

The army has tried to evade responsibility for the incident in which an empty bus that transported soldiers minutes earlier was hit by an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza as it parked at an observation post near the border.

One Israeli soldier, age 19, standing nearby was seriously wounded. The driver of the bus was uninjured but was treated for shock.

>> Analysis: Why Hamas' missile attack on Israeli bus actually shows it's not looking to spark full-on Gaza war

Immediately after the incident, the Israeli army announced that it was a civilian bus unconnected to the army or the nearby soldiers. After Hamas officials in Gaza released a video of the attack, the army changed its response.

Anti-tank missile launched from Gaza hit a bus in southern IsraelYouTube

It then emerged that, contrary to the army’s claim, soldiers had indeed gotten off the bus a few minutes earlier. Although Hamas was watching the bus and the soldiers the entire time, the bus was fired upon only after it was empty.

On Tuesday the army announced that it had established an investigative  team headed by the commander of border defenses, Brig. Gen. Amir Abstein, to examine the incident. The team will look into the events leading up to the missile strike on the bus and the conduct of the soldiers and commanders at the scene.

Israel was aware of the possibility that Hamas could attempt to fire at Israeli soldiers near the border amid rising tensions following Sunday's botched IDF special force operation in Gaza that led to a confrontation between the Israeli unit and Hamas militants east of Khan Yunis. The confrontation resulted in the deaths of one Israeli officer and seven Palestinians and triggered a wave of rocket attacks into Israel from Gaza.

A preliminary army investigation revealed that the soldiers came to the area to reenforce forces near the Gaza border, although they were in the middle of a training course. When the bus arrived at a Military Police checkpoint in the area, it proceeded on with the approval of commanders. Although it was said that the group had proper entry permits, that was not the case,. 

A few minutes after the soldiers disembarked, the missile destroyed the bus. The video was quickly made pubilc by Hamas on social networks as a sign of its success.

"There hasn't been much of an explanation," the mother of the 19-year-old soldier injured in the attack told Army Radio on Wednesday. "They say that it was a split-second decision. They thought the situation was okay. There was some sort of order for them to perform an exercise there," she added, "They definitely didn't [put the soldiers in harm's way] on purpose."

"It's still under investigation. Why would you take soldiers there under the circumstances? They haven't told me much... I think the army needs to be clearer in their explanations," she added.

The soldier was taken to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva along with the 25-year-old driver, who suffered from shock.

Prior to the cease-fire that came into effect on Tuesday, 460 rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza. Israeli forces struck 160 targets in the Strip.

On the Israeli side, a 48 year old West Bank Palestinian, Mahmoud Abu Asba, was killed after a building where he was living in Ashkelon was hit by a rocket late Monday night. Two women who were in building at the time were seriously injured. In the Gaza Strip, seven people were killed in the course of the fighting, according to officials in the Strip.