TEL AVIV (Jul. 19)
In what was described as retaliation for Israel’s handling of Sunday’s riots at a Gaza Strip checkpoint, Islamic militants shot and killed an Israeli officer Tuesday near the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.
The incident occurred after the Israel Defense Force received a warning from electronic sensing equipment that a border fence on the frontier between Gaza and Egypt had been tampered with.
When a unit was sent to investigate, they found a ladder leaning against the electronically monitored fence. Shots rang out from a nearby home when the officer, Captain Motti Ovadia, got out of his jeep to inspect the fence.
Ovadia, 23, of Kibbutz Yotvata in the southern Negev, received two wounds to the head and was rushed to a hospital in Ashkelon. He died of his injuries within a few hours.
Other members of his unit returned the fire, but the assailants escaped.
After being informed of the incident, Palestinian police began searching for suspects.
A leaflet signed by members of the militant Hamas movement was found at the scene. It said the attack had been carried out “as the first in a chain of retaliations for the Israeli massacre of Gaza residents” on Sunday at the Erez checkpoint separating northern Gaza from Israel.
Israeli officials have accused Hamas activists of instigating Sunday’s riot, in which two Palestinians were killed and at least 75 were wounded.
The riots, which began when frustrated Palestinian day laborers rushed the Israeli side of the Ercz crossing, also resulted in the wounding of 17 Israeli soldiers and border police.
In other unrest Tuesday, an Israeli border policemen suffered head injuries after rioting erupted in the West Bank town of Hebron.
Israeli police responded to the violent demonstrations by firing rubber bullets and tear gas. Israeli security officials imposed a curfew on the town, which has been a hotbed of unrest since the Feb. 25 killings of 29 Palestinians by an Israeli settler.