Two soldiers killed, one kidnapped in raid on IDF post

Two Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed and another was kidnapped when Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups attacked an IDF post within Israeli territory near the Gaza Strip border, in the pre-dawn hours Sunday.

The two soldiers were killed when an anti-tank missile was fired at the tank in which they were located. The missing soldier and another who was seriously wounded were also inside.
„IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said Sunday afternoon that the kidnapped soldier was alive. „Hamas is involved in this matter from head to foot, literally,” Halutz told a news conference.
„The soldier is alive, and therefore they bear responsibility for his fate,” he said.
Shortly after the early morning attack, IDF tanks and troops entered Gaza near the site of the incident, an IDF position close to the Kerem Shalom crossing. Military sources said the incursion was part of a manhunt for the missing soldier.
Later in the afternoon, IDF and the Shin Bet security service undertook a series of measures in an effort to locate the abducted soldier via intelligence means.
In addition, the IDF also placed its special forces on alert, and the division dealing with captured and missing soldiers also became involved.
The eight militants reached the post through a tunnel dug under the border. Members of nearby Kibbutz Kerem Shalom were ordered to remain in their houses.
„They [the militants] divided into three cells. One attacked an armored personnel carrier. The APC was empty. Another group attacked a tank with grenades… causing two deaths and one serious injury. Another two attacked another position with gunfire,” an IDF spokesman said.
„Then they returned to Gaza… We have two dead, three wounded and a soldier that is missing.”
The unidentified soldier was the first to be seized by Palestinians since 1994 when Cpl. Nachson Waxman, a 19-year-old Israeli-American, was abducted. At the time, Israeli commandos stormed the safe house where Waxman was held, but he died in the raid along with three of his kidnappers.
Armed groups historically have used captured IDF soldiers, dead or alive, as a bargaining chip for the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
The Popular Resistance Committees said two gunmen were killed in the attack. They are thought to have been killed by IDF fire as they climbed up the side of the stronghold.
The surviving militants are believed to have fled back into Gaza after blowing a hole in the border fence.
Witnesses said that in the aftermath of the gun battle, two IDF tanks backed by a helicopter crossed into an empty field in the Gaza Strip at the scene of the attack. The military said it was a „limited entry” to search the area.
Iz a-Din al-Qassam, Hamas’ military wing, said it helped carry out the raid, which also involved the People’s Resistance Committees (PRC), and a largely unknown group called the Army of Islam.
It is still unclear who or what the Army of Islam is exactly. Palestinian security sources believe that the group identifies itself with Hamas, but takes a more extreme line.
Heavy IDF fire continued in the area hours after the intial attack, Army Radio reported.
Following the attack, the IDF advised Palestinian security units to evacuate the Philadelphi Route along Gaza’s southern border with Egypt in the Rafah area, saying Israeli military units were to enter.
The IDF General Staff convened for consultations after the attack, and IDF chief Dan Halutz was expected to recommend that the government order a „severe response.”
The armed groups said the operation was in response to the Israeli assassination this month of PRC leader Jamal Abu Samhadana and Israeli air strikes aimed at militants firing homemade Qassam rockets from Gaza.
„It is [an] earthquake reto the massacre of civilians,” said a joint statement from Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), two militant groups that claimed responsibility for the attack.
Israeli air strikes in response to daily Qassam rocket attacks on Sderot and other areas of the western Negev have killed 20 Palestinians in the past two weeks, 14 of them civilians.
Hamas ended a 16-month-old truce with Israel on June 9 after seven members of one Palestinian family were killed on a Gaza beach during a day of heavy Israeli shelling. Hamas has blamed Israel for those deaths. Israel has denied all responsibility and has ruled out shelling as the cause of the deaths.
„Our fighters infiltrated the Israeli army military location near so-called Kerem Shalom,” said Abu Mujahid, a PRC spokesman. „They succeeded in blowing up several Israeli vehicles and clashed with Israeli soldiers. The battle is still going on. The number of fighters is bigger than any time. We have some martyrs who fell during the battle.”
„It was a very complicated and well-studied operation. The details are going to shock the Zionists. There are many surprises that are going to be announced about planning and about the process and about the battle itself.”
The IDF closed the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza for several days last week due to a security alert. The closure of the passage meant that the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt was also shut, as the European monitors who used Kerem Shalom to access Rafah could not reach the border.