Tuesday, December 24, 2013

24-Dec-13: On border with Gaza, push comes to shove and sniper fire

Watching birds on Gaza's border with Israel?
November 2013 [Image Source]
Several incidents in which Palestinian Arabs on the Hamas side of the Gaza border fence with Israel were spotted placing explosives have happened in the last few days. On the IDF's blog, they sum up the events this way:
These incidents show us that even if the area seems quiet, as long as Hamas continues to govern Gaza, it is just a matter of time until they attempt once again to increase friction in the region.
A chronology of the last few days:
Gaza/Israel border from the Hamas side,
November 2012 [Image Source]
  • This past Friday morning, a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip crashed into Israel's Shaar HaNegev region.
  • Later the same morning, some 100 Palestinian Arabs rioted in northern Gaza, hurling stones at IDF forces stationed near the border. Several of the Arabs attempted to break through the security fence that serves as the border and to enter Israeli territory. They came under warning fire from the IDF but persisted. Live fire was authorized, and the incident came to an end after several of the Arabs were hit. AP quotes Ashraf al-Kidra, whom it identifies as the Gazan Health Ministry spokesman, saying a 22-year-old man, Odeh Hamad, was killed and three others wounded by Israeli fire "as they hunted for birds".
  • Saturday morning, according to the IDF, members of a terrorist cell were intercepted east of Khan Yunis as they were attempting to plant an explosive device on the security fence. IDF soldiers fired warning shots into the air. When it was clear the warnings were being ignored, IDF forces opened fire at the legs of the terrorists; one was hit. Ynet quotes the same al-Kidra (though they spell his name differently) saying the 22-year-old who was hit is moderately injured.
  • Yesterday (Monday), according to the Times of Israel account, an Arab male was seen placing an explosive device near the border fence. IDF soldiers were instructed to fire at his lower extremities; he suffered moderate gunshot wounds to the leg and abdomen.
  • Also yesterday, as we reported here, a rocket was fired into Israel in the very early hours, setting off the Red Alert sirens in the Israeli communities dotted across the region. The rocket was later found, having crashed to the ground just next to a bus stop used during daylight hours by schoolchildren in the Ashkelon area. There were no injuries in the attack; the bus stop was damaged.
We're guessing these are also bird watchers on the Gaza side of the border
with Israel last month [Image Source]
Against that background, it has been reported in the past hour that
An Israeli man was severely wounded after he was shot by a sniper from Gaza while working on the border fence Tuesday afternoon. The man, 50, was working  between Nahal Oz and Kfar Aza as a civilian employed by the Israeli Defense Ministry on repairs to the Israel-Gaza fence. He was evacuated by helicopter to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, and was said to be in very serious condition. The IDF deployed additional forces to the area. 
Unlikely there will be much "bird hunting" in the area during the coming days.

UPDATE Tuesday 3:00 pm: Ynet says the Israeli victim of today's sniper attack has died. He is Saleh Abu Latif, a contractor working with the IDF to repair the border fence.

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