'Hamas fired more than one anti-tank missile during last round of fighting'

Head of IDF's Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Hertzi Halevy: "We must stop these crowds from breaching the fence because if we fail, the challenge will be much bigger five minutes later."

May 29, 2019 01:46
3 minute read.
The vehicle that sustained a direct hit from a rocket near Yad Mordechai

The vehicle that sustained a direct hit from a rocket near Yad Mordechai. (photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

Hamas fired more than one anti-tank missile toward Israeli civilians during the last round of fighting between the two, the head of the IDF’s Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Hertzi Halevy said on Tuesday.

Only one of the anti-tank missiles struck a target, said Halevy, who was speaking at the third international law conference in Herzliya, adding that the Kornet anti-tank missile that killed Moshe Feder near Kibbutz Erez earlier in May was fired from a multi-story residential building in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip.

“Any place is okay to launch rockets from Gaza’s civilian homes and school yards – wherever they have human shields – meanwhile Israelis need to run for shelter,” Halevy told the audience of top foreign military and academic experts on the laws of war from around the world.

According to Halevy, had they known of the building being used to carry out attacks, the IDF would have “absolutely” struck it.

“Our civilian communities, which are mostly agricultural, are very close to the border, some even a few hundred meters. You don’t have time for mistakes. Time is ticking – you must retaliate quickly in order to not have civilians directly attacked by terrorists.”

According to Halevy, Israel has “an enemy rich with military capabilities,” but Hamas knows that it cannot win a war against the IDF. “So they would rather use something against us that won’t lead to war” like the March of Return protests along the security fence.

The border protests began March 30, and have seen over half a million people – ranging between several thousand to 45,000 every Friday at points along the border – violently demonstrating along the security fence, demanding an end to the 12-year long blockade.

But, Halevy said, ending the blockade on the coastal enclave is not Hamas’s real intention.

“We know the intentions of Hamas. They say that they would like to breach the fence with thousands of people, then infiltrate with hundreds and then have small teams of five to six people – each with guns and grenades – in order to kill civilians,” he said. “We must stop these crowds from breaching the fence, because if we fail, the challenge will be much bigger five minutes later.”

An infiltration of Gazans into Israeli territory is not uncommon, with Palestinians attempting to cross almost daily into Israel, due in part to their desperation to escape the dire economic reality of the Strip. While most are caught usually several meters after crossing the fence unarmed, several have been stopped by IDF troops armed with weapons, such as knives or grenades.

One example given by Halevy to the audience was of an armed Palestinian, part of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad “suicide unit,” caught by IDF troops in March less than 100 meters from Kibbutz Erez, 1.2 km. away from the Gaza Strip.

“There is a playground right after the gate into the Kibbutz. Imagine what would have happened had he not been captured,” Halevy said.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, 305 Palestinians – including 59 children and 10 women – have been killed by IDF troops since the beginning of the protests, with another 17,335 others suffering from various injuries.

Approvals to shoot are given by senior commanders, and a debriefing is carried out following every bullet fired.

“We don’t have results for every bullet because of the tough conditions, but we haven’t found even one incident of a soldier intentionally shooting into the crowd, even on tough days.”

While Halevy told the crowd that he wished the IDF had more non-lethal weapons available to them, in recent months the border protests have seen a “dramatic” decrease in number of deaths and injuries after Hamas decided to restrain rioters by putting their own troops between protesters and the security fence.

“You need two to tango,” Halevy said. “It’s not only on us.”

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