Wall Street Journal – by TAMER EL-GHOBASHY
As Israel continued its deadly assault on the Gaza Strip, Hamas militants sneaked into the country on Saturday and killed two soldiers, delivering the worst blow to the Israeli military on its side of the Gaza border in years.
After sunset, loud Israeli artillery barrages were beginning in the north.
The morning attack, along with another later in the day that the military said it foiled, highlighted what Israel is coming to see as a security threat more dangerous than the Islamic militant group’s arsenal of rockets.
The raids also showed the militants are energized, set against Israel’s deepening resolve to continue its incursion into the Gaza Strip.
On Thursday, when 13 militants entered Israel through a tunnel under the border, Israel sent tanks and soldiers into the Gaza Strip, which Hamas controls. That raid was turned back, before it could cause harm.
The Israel Defense Forces said Saturday’s deadly militant raid began when Hamas fighters entered the country dressed in IDF uniforms through a tunnel leading into an agricultural field and set out toward nearby Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha. They then reached a patrol jeep that they attacked with gunfire and antitank missile. Hamas said 13 fighters participated in the raid and one was killed. The dead fighter wasn’t identified.
The dead Israeli soldiers were a 20-year-old sergeant named Adar Bersano and a 45-year-old major in the reserves named Amotz Greenberg, the military said.
Hamas fighters entered Israel again later Saturday, this time with tranquilizers and handcuffs to abduct Israelis, the military said, adding that two militants were killed in second attack, which was repulsed without Israeli casualties.
Hamas responded on Saturday praising its fighters in the operation. “We have given a harsh lesson to the Zionist enemy within the chain of surprises which we promised our citizens and nation,” said a statement from the Hamas military wing. “It’s so they can imagine what will happen to their soldiers if they step on the lands of liberated Gaza with their feet.”
Though Hamas has long vowed to kill Israeli soldiers, it has only rarely succeeded in hitting them in Israeli territory from Gaza. The last time the IDF suffered such a loss was in 2006, when two soldiers were killed and a third, named Gilad Shalit, was kidnapped into Gaza, creating a crisis that stretched for years and ended in 2011 with the exchange of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
Meanwhile, the death toll from the conflict between Israel and Hamas mounted on Saturday, as intense fighting continued, with diplomatic efforts to end the hostilities showing little progress.
On Saturday morning, as the whine of drones was heard overhead, Gazans took in the previous night’s losses. The death toll had risen to 338, including more than 70 children, Gazan health officials said. More than 2,500 people had been injured.
The Israeli army said it has killed 70 Palestinian militants and captured 13 since the start of its ground invasion Thursday night.
The military said rockets fired from Gaza on Saturday killed two people near the southern Israeli town of Dimona, bringing the Israeli civilian death toll to three since the country launched an air offensive on July 8. A soldier was killed on Friday in a friendly-fire incident, the military said.
Israeli soldiers fire towards the Gaza Strip from their position near Israel’s border. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to arrive in the region on Saturday to help press for a cease-fire. The U.N. said the number of Palestinians displaced by the Israeli bombardment had risen to nearly 50,000 since the ground invasion started.
Despite the mounting violence and fears of a humanitarian crisis, Egyptian-led efforts to strike a deal between Israel and Hamas continued to falter. Hamas rejected an Egyptian proposal earlier this week, saying Cairo had frozen Hamas out of the talks and ignored their demands, primarily to have the blockade of Gaza lifted immediately.
On Saturday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said his country had no intention of revising the proposal, which has been supported Israel. Egypt controls one of the crossings into Gaza and its military-backed government views Hamas as a threat.
Almost 60 additional Palestinian deaths were reported since the ground operation began late Thursday night, including eight people in Beit Hanoun who officials said died when their house was shelled by Israelis. Ashraf Al Kidra, a spokesman for Gaza’s Health Ministry, called the attack “a new massacre.”
Hamas’s militant wing said on Saturday that it had clashed with Israeli fighters inside Gaza overnight, saying its snipers shot soldiers near the northern border and attacked them at an agricultural college.
Israel said three of its soldiers were injured overnight by snipers and another three were hurt when an explosive device detonated. The military also said it was contending with the use of animals to carry explosives, including a donkey which it said exploded but didn’t injure soldiers.
The long night passed for many of Gazans in the dark, as officials said Israel cut off the electricity it supplies to the strip and local generators there couldn’t keep up.
One man described a scene from the bombardment on Friday night on Baghdad Street in the eastern Shajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City. He said his home was filling with water after his water tank was destroyed. He said he had sent his wife and children away but chose to stay behind, though he was unable to move from his hiding place in a corner.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the goal of the ground invasion was to target Hamas’s military infrastructure, particularly tunnels that link Gaza to Israeli territory, to stop the rocket attacks.
But he left open the possibility greatly expanding the scope of the operation.
Israel’s military, too, reiterated that the operation was primarily aimed at destroying tunnels it alleges Hamas uses to move inside Gaza undetected and infiltrate Israeli territory. In a briefing with journalists, a senior military official said 15 tunnels had been located but couldn’t say if all of them linked Gaza to Israel.
The official said Israeli troops were more than 200 meters into Gaza along the border with Israel and could push deeper into the strip as fighting persists. “As long as and wide as necessary,” the official said of timetable and force. “We are ready to introduce more forces when needed.”
The official said the operation could grow, if demanded by the political establishment, to include taking out Hamas’s weapons caches in the hopes it would provide a period of calm while Hamas attempts to renew the arsenal.
But for the first time the military appeared to concede that the ground operation also has a distinct political goal, suggesting it was pressuring Hamas to accept the terms of an Egyptian cease-fire proposal that Hamas rejected because it ignored their demands. “It’s mainly about Hamas not willing to cease fire,” the official said, declining to say how many troops were involved in the fight.
Faced with questions over civilian deaths in Gaza that include more than 70 children, the official said “when you fight there are mistakes, sometimes they are very tragic.” But the official repeated the claim that Hamas is to blame for the high civilian toll for allegedly positioning their weapons and fighters among a civilian population.
Kibbutz residents near the central Gaza border were told to lock themselves in their homes twice for hours at a time on Saturday amid alerts of Hamas infiltrators. At around 9:40 a.m., the army detected “armed figures dressed liked soldiers” in the agricultural fields and between the border and Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha and Kibbutz Nirim.
“It was just a regular Saturday morning. Then we got a message to go in the house and stay inside,” said a member of the emergency response team of the nearby Kibbutz Sufa.
At the entrance to Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha in the afternoon, hours after the infiltration, soldiers dressed in full combat gear turned away a reporter, saying it was declared a closed military zone. “There’s tension,” the soldier said.
On the road outside of the kibbutz, a convoy of jeeps with infantry troops headed toward the border and soldiers warned a reporter it was dangerous to be on the road. Police put up barriers to block traffic to the kibbutz.
“We are in the middle of a another incident. It began an hour ago,” said Haim Ben Ari, the spokesman for Kibbutz Kisufim. “All of the children have been evacuated. Only adults have remained. I just hope they will find them as soon as possible.”
Write to Nicholas Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org and Tamer El-Ghobashy email@example.com
2 thoughts on “Hamas Fighters Infiltrate Israel Through Tunnel and Kill Two Soldiers”
“The last time the IDF suffered such a loss was in 2006, when two soldiers were killed and a third, named Gilad Shalit, was kidnapped into Gaza, creating a crisis that stretched for years and ended in 2011 with the exchange of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.”
Only three? They murdered thousands of Palestinians and the media doesn’t care, but when THREE Israelis get killed then it is portrayed as almost a shocking massacre? Are you kidding me?
What do you expect from the Zionist controlled Wall Street Journal?
They’re all Jew scum controlled. I’ve seen pics of some of these kids. I can easily say I would gladly do whatever to get revenge of it were my kids. The press here is just responsible. They what’s happening. Yet they remain silent. Cowards.