One Israeli Officer Killed, One Injured, In Gaza Fighting

YERUSHALAYIM -
An Israeli air force drone patrols the skies. (Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90)

IDF spokesman reported that one IDF officer was killed and another officer was moderately wounded during an operation by special forces in Gaza.

IDF drones attacked targets in the Gaza city of Khan Younis on Sunday night, killing a senior Hamas commander and five others, according to Palestinian media reports.

The Israeli military issued a terse statement carried by Reuters that said only: “During IDF operational activity in the Gaza Strip, an exchange of fire evolved.”

Air raid sirens sounded afterwards in the Eshkol region, and residents heard loud explosions. A rocket fired from Gaza reportedly exploded in an open area at about 11 p.m. B’chasdei shamayim, no injuries were reported.

There was a report of a volley of rockets fired from Gaza, some of which were shot down by the Iron Dome air defense system, according to local government officials.

Residents of southern Israel have been instructed by the authorities to stay close to bomb shelters in the event of reprisals from Gaza later Sunday night. Schools in the Gaza periphery communities will be closed on Monday due to the security situation.

The military sought to quell a rumor that a soldier had been kidnapped during an IDF operation in the Gaza Strip. However, the IDF confirmed that “an exchange of fire broke out during security activities by the IDF in the Gaza Strip region,” but did not elaborate.

“During the security event in the Gaza Strip, there were no kidnappings of our forces,” the army said, adding that all IDF forces had returned safely after the incident.

The local Palestinian media said the head of Hamas’s Khan Younis brigade Sheikh Nur Barakeh, and Muhammad al-Qara were killed in the drone strike consisting of 10 missiles. Others were also reported injured.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, currently in Paris, was reportedly holding operational consultations with IDF commanders about the situation.

His office said has decided to cut his trip short and return late Sunday night in order to deal with the situation. He was scheduled to meet with French President Emanuel Macron tomorrow at 10 a.m. local time, before returning to Israel.

With Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu abroad, it was not immediately clear who was filling in for him and who would chair an emergency meeting of the security cabinet.

Mr. Netanyahu usually names a different senior Likud minister as his stand-in during trips abroad, but in this case the Prime Minister’s Office was not able to say who was designated.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, holding consultations with IDF commanders, his office said.

Hamas’ militant wing reported that undercover Israeli forces drove a civilian vehicle into the Gaza Strip and shot dead one of the group’s commanders.

Hamas was providing details on a sudden, late-night burst of violence between Israel and Gaza terrorists Sunday that came just as the sides were taking steps that appeared to be toning down months of fighting.

In a statement late Sunday, Hamas says terrorists chased the car down, which prompted Israeli airstrikes that led to the deaths of at least five terrorists.

The Israeli military said only that there had been an exchange of fire during operational activity. It said that its rocket defense system intercepted two launches from the Gaza Strip and that air raid sirens were sounding in southern Israel.