Arab and Palestinian media that have been closely following the incident in the Gaza Strip on Sunday night are contradicting the Israeli report of “routine activity” that went awry, and paint a picture of what was ostensibly a planned mission. A special unit of Israel Defense Forces commandos entered the Strip in a civilian car in order to abduct the man responsible for Hamas' network of subterranean tunnels leading into Israel from the area of Khan Yunis, according to the Lebanese paper Al Akhbar and the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
The raid failed and the soldiers were exposed, the Arab sources report. Seven Palestinians died in the ensuing exchange of gunfire and aerial raids, one of whom was Nour Baraka, the brigades commander in Khan Yunis.
According to an official announcement from the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, after the Israeli force was exposed and the gunfight began, the Israel Air Force began bombing the Strip to cover for the retreating IDF forces.
The Gazan Health Ministry says the dead are Baraka, 37; Mohammed Majed al-Qara, 23; Ala Adin Kwidar, 22; Mustafa Hassan Abu Odeh, 23; Mahmoud Atallah Masabkh, 25; Ala Fasikas, 24, and Omar Jani Abu Khatar. The Palestinians also report that seven people were wounded.
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Following the incident, the Gazan Interior Ministry and Islamic Jihad placed the whole Strip on alert.
For its part, the IDF denied Monday that its forces had penetrated the Gaza Strip to carry out an abduction or assassination, and said in a statement, "the special force carried out a lengthy operation and encountered a very complex reality." The army spokesman did not comment on the number of Palestinian dead or on their identity. An IDF officer was killed during the operation, and another was wounded.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that Israel bore responsibility for the “stupid incident” that took place east of Khan Yunis, and added that the al-Qassam Brigades were “always prepared” to respond to any Israeli attempt to harm the Palestinian people and its forces of resistance.
On Monday, following the news that an IDF lieutenant colonel had been killed during the operation, Barhoum said, “We applaud the courageous resistance forces that deflected the cowardly Israeli aggression.” He described the forces as heroes who were doing their duty to protect the Palestinian people.