Israeli soldier killed during special operation in Gaza


JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli soldier was killed and another injured during a special forces operation by the army deep inside the Gaza Strip.

The operation was exposed on Sunday night, leading to clashes between Israeli soldiers and Hamas fighters in Gaza, and the firing of 17 rockets from Gaza on southern Israel. Three of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Seven Palestinians were killed in the clashes, including a senior Hamas commander.

The soldier was identified on Monday morning only as Col. M, a 41-year-old father of two. His name and photo were ordered to remain under a gag order by the military censor after the military said that identifying him would jeopardize national security.  The funeral is scheduled to be private to protect his anonymity.

Druze Israeli Communications Minister Ayoub Kara will represent the government at the funeral, according to reports.

“I am shocked and saddened at the loss of Lt.-Col. M, the IDF officer killed last night, and praying with all citizens of Israel for the swift recovery of the injured soldier,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement issued Monday morning. “I send my warm embrace to all those who are defending our country at this moment, ensuring our safety.”

The injured soldier reportedly is improving and is not in a life-threatening situation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left France, where he was attending the Paris Peace Forum and ceremonies to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. He had been scheduled to meet Monday with French President Emmanel Marcon.

Netanyahu received a security briefing from senior army officials upon his arrival back in Israel.

The IDF said in a statement that the special operation “was not intended to kill or abduct terrorists, but to strengthen Israeli security. The force waged a heroic and very complex battle and was able to exfiltrate in its entirety. We salute the bravery of Lt. Col. M. and his peers.”

It noted that the soldier was killed and the second injured during the “initial incident” and not during the rescue operation.

The classified operation was “of the utmost importance to the security of Israel,” according to the IDF.  Details of the operation were also subject to a gag order of the military censor.

School was canceled for Monday in southern Israeli communities and the Ashkelon to Sderot train line was canceled for Monday over fears of more rockets being fired from Gaza. The last rockets had been fired at about 1 a.m.

The incident comes following Egyptian attempts to mediate a cease-fire between Israel and terror groups in Gaza.

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