Palestinians hurl stones at Israeli troops during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip September 21, 2018.
(photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA / REUTERS)
With tensions high on Israel’s southern border with Hamas warning of another escalation of violence, an IDF officer wounded by Gazan sniper fire in July has been released from hospital.
In his first interview since the incident, Lt. Bar Vaknin of the IDF’s Givati Brigade described being shot after he arrived at the security fence to disperse some 20 Palestinian youth who were violently demonstrating 400 meters away.
After climbing an embankment with the other soldiers in the force, Vaknin “shot a few bullets into the air and after the third shot, I felt they had fired towards me. I felt an explosion in my stomach,” he was quoted by Walla! News as saying.
“I fell backwards down the embankment. The first thing I did was to call on the radio while I was still falling. I called out, “Vaknin is hit, Vaknin is hit!’ I remember everything after that. I was fully conscious until they brought me to the operating room.”
A recording of the phone call between Vaknin and his father while the injured soldier was being transported to the hospital was published by Walla! on Sunday.
“Father, I love you,” Vakhnin said.
“What happened?” his father said, clearly anxious.
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“I got shot,” Vakhnin said. “Everything is okay.”
“Where are you?” his father asked in a panic.
“I don’t know, father. Somewhere. In the hospital.”
Vaknin, who is from Dimona, was shot in the stomach by a sniper less than a week after Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi was killed by sniper fire in the same area during an uptick in cross-border violence. Levi was the first IDF soldier to be killed by a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip in four years.
“Aviv was a friend of mine, we were doing our job,” Vaknin said. “No matter how many others are wounded, we will continue to do it. As for me, I was saved by a miracle.”
While the IDF believes that the ambush was not carried out with Hamas’s approval, its policy is to hold the terrorist group responsible for all events occurring in the Strip. In response, the IDF struck seven Hamas targets throughout the coastal enclave with tank and artillery fire.
The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza reported four casualties, all members of Hamas, and several injuries.
Following his release on the eve of Yom Kippur, Vaknin is set to undergo rehabilitation and physiotherapy.
“And then I believe that I will return to military service,” he told Walla! “I will do everything to return to my battalion; even if they lower my profile because of the injury I will do anything to raise it again and return to the battalion.”
On Sunday, senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri stated that the negotiations mediated by Egypt to reach a long-term cease-fire agreement with Israel have stalled due to the Palestinian Authority, and that the terrorist group has vowed to step up the violent protests along the border.
A youth-led unit called Irbak al-Leili
(nocturnal disturbances) has been protesting near the fence from early evening until midnight for the past week, pointing lasers at IDF snipers and launching incendiary balloons, as well as blasting songs and other loud messages aimed at Israeli civilians living in the Gaza vicinity.
During protests on Monday night, 21-year-old Muhammad Fayiz Abu al-Sadeq was shot and killed by IDF troops in the northern Gaza Strip and 90 other Palestinians were injured.
Over 180 Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured since the outbreak of the Gaza border protests which began on March 30 and which call for an end to the 12-year-long Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
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