Gaza flare-up kills Israeli officer, seven Palestinians

12 November, 2018, 17:58 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
  • Residents from the south and activists from the right-wing Im Tirtzu organization block trucks entering Gaza through the Kerem Shalom Crossing

A clash that erupted during an Israeli special forces operation in the Gaza Strip and killed eight people threatened on Monday to derail efforts to restore calm to the Palestinian enclave after months of unrest.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cut his trip to Paris for World War I commemorations short to return to Israel after the violence erupted along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, a spokesperson said.

Rocket fire began emanating from the enclave late Sunday night following a shootout between IDF troops and Hamas terrorist forces in the town of Khan Younis in the eastern part of Gaza. It was unclear if the other fatalities included gunmen.

The spokesman, Brigadier-General Ronen Manelis, told Army Radio that covert missions were mounted frequently, comments that suggested the Israeli force may have been gathering intelligence. The Israeli military chief, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said a "special force" carried out "a very meaningful operation to Israel's security", without elaborating.

A ground operation inside the Gaza Strip would be rare and likely significantly boost tensions.

Hamas has been leading the protests since March 30 in a bid to ease a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade that was imposed in 2007 in order to weaken the militant group. Israeli air strikes followed when the operation failed, it said in a statement.

Medics and Hamas officials said at least seven people were killed, four of them militants, including Hamas commander Mr Baraka. Gaza militants have rockets capable of reaching into the Israeli heartland, where Ben-Gurion International Airport is located. He was identified as Nour Baraka.

One officer was killed and a second was wounded, it said. "IDF operated in the Gaza Strip, exchange of gunfire ensued", he wrote on Twitter, referring to the Israel Defence Forces.

Netanyahu was in Paris, where he had joined dozens of world leaders in commemorating the end World War I.

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Sunday's attack comes as Israel and Hamas, who controls Gaza, appeared to be making progress toward an unofficial ceasefire.

Last week, Qatar delivered $15 million (€13.2 million) of cash in suitcases to the Gaza Strip.

Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu defended his decision to allow the transfer of the Qatari money, rejecting criticism that the move had strengthened Hamas.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he had opposed transferring the money to Hamas.

However, Maariv revealed that the lieutenant colonel was the most senior Israeli soldier to be killed since 2014.

Egyptian and United Nations officials have been mediating between Israel and Hamas in efforts to reach a long-term truce deal. It is the first instalment of $90m that Qatar has pledged to cover the salaries of thousands of unpaid Hamas employees for six months.

One Israeli soldier was killed on the Gaza-Israel border by a Palestinian sniper in July.

The Gulf emirate has also started buying additional fuel for Gaza's sole power station, allowing outages to be reduced to their lowest level in years.


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