Three Israeli Soldiers Wounded, Attacker Killed After Gaza Border Breach, Army Says

Palestinian, armed with an assault rifle and grenades, was shot after trying to breach Israel-Gaza border

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Israeli soldiers near the scene of the incident, August 1, 2019.
Israeli soldiers near the scene of the incident, August 1, 2019. Credit: IDF Spokesman Unit

Three Israeli soldiers were shot and wounded by a Palestinian who infiltrated the Gaza border fence east of Khan Yunis on Thursday, the army said in a statement.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, the Palestinian, was subsequently killed by Israeli fire and his body was captured in Israeli territory.

Palestinian social networks have identified the man as Hani Abu Salah, who belonged to Hamas' border patrol. Abu Salah's brother, Fawdi, who was disabled, was killed 14 months ago by Israeli troops during Gaza border demonstrations.

IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said Abu Salah was wearing a Hamas uniform and armed with an AK-47 and grenades. Preliminary investigations assess that the assailant acted independently.

>> Read more: In next Gaza war, Israeli army eyes crippling Hamas, but not toppling it

One Israeli officer, wounded moderately, and two combat soldiers, lightly wounded, were taken by helicopter to Soroka hospital in Be'er Sheva.

The Israeli military said it shelled a nearby Hamas target as part of the fire exchange. Following the incident, a tank attacked a Hamas outpost east of Khan Yunis in the Strip's south. Palestinian media reported that many shots were heard and Israeli aircrafts dropped dozens of flash bombs by the village of Khoza'a in the southern Gaza Strip.

An initial investigation by IDF commanders in the field said that two hours had passed between Abu Hamza's breach of the border fence and his death. The army attributes the relatively lengthy timespan of the operation to organized and responsible conduct by forces on the ground to ensure that the assailant would not escape.

Prior to the incident, around 2 A.M., IDF field observers identified a suspicious figure, believed to be unarmed, near the border fence. As he approached the border, they saw that he was carrying weapons, and notified the army unit that had been called to the scene.

As the soldiers reached the area, the figure appeared and opened fire, injuring the officer and the soldiers. A second unit was deployed to the scene. At that point, the assailant was believed to be hiding in one of the military posts on the Israeli side of the border, and the army decided to fire on the unmanned post with a tank.

A number of soldiers and officers fired on the assailant, killing him. Over the course of the incident, the army feared that increasing the number of soldiers at the scene would lead to friendly fire; Since the forces knew where the assailant was at any given moment, the Southern Division said it preferred to handle the incident with restraint and without haste.

The attacker's relatives said: "We saw the name on the networks but we didn't receive any official information from any Palestinian or international source if he was killed or injured and where he is being held."

The border fence through which the man crossed is easy to break through. In February, the Defense Ministry announced that work was underway to erect a more stable border fence, on top of the 65-kilometer-long (40 miles) underground infrastructure that is meant to prevent the digging of cross-border tunnels. The upper barrier will be six meters high. So far, ten kilometers of construction has been completed.

On Friday, one Palestinian was killed and 56 were wounded in clashes with Israeli forces in demonstrations along the Gaza border fence. 38 were wounded by live gunfire, and 22 of those wounded were under the age of 17.

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