The infiltration attempt by three Palestinian youth who got within two kilometers from Kibbutz Kissufim was not a spontaneous act, but one whose intent was to carry out a terrorist attack against IDF soldiers or Israeli civilians.
The three Palestinians, identified as 17- and 18-year-olds Muhammad Hani Abu Mandil, Salem Ana’ami and Mahmoud Said, were spotted by IDF reconnaissance around 8:30 p.m. while still in Gazan territory. Armed with improvised explosive devices, a knife and a screwdriver, they were able to cross some 400 m. into southern Israel in a wooded area.
IDF spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told reporters that they had crossed some 2 kilometers from Kibbutz Kissufim in an area known by the military due to several infiltrations having occurred at the same spot in the past.
“There are those who cross, then stop; those who cross, then run; and those who cross, then continue like they have a mission. They did the last two things,” Zilberman said, adding that once the three youths understood that they had been spotted, they threw two explosive devices toward IDF forces, leading troops to open fire toward them, killing all three.
While it is not yet clear if they were part of a terrorist group or acting on their own initiative, “we know it wasn’t spontaneous,”Zilberman said, adding that the time from when the three were spotted until the end of the incident was very short.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi visited the South on Wednesday, Zilberman said, where he met with the troops and praised them for their quick response.
While the military does not expect any rocket attacks from the Hamas-run Strip in response to the deaths of the three Palestinians, the IDF is prepared for any scenario, Zilberman stressed.
Earlier in the day, the parents of IDF soldier Lt. Hadar Goldin called on the military to hold on to the bodies of the three Palestinians killed during the attempted infiltration last night, until the body of their son is released by Hamas.
“Despite the cabinet decision, and despite the promises of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, [Defense Minister Naftali] Bennett and others, Israel has released the bodies of terrorists in some situations,” the family wrote in a letter to Netanyahu’s military adviser Brig.-Gen. Avi Blot and Bennett’s military secretary Brig.-Gen. Ofer Winter.
“We want to remind them that Hamas is still holding Hadar and Oron, along with civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed,” they wrote.
The family’s appeal to the military came following fears that due to the young age of the Palestinians, their bodies would be returned to Gaza for burial.
While significant progress has been made toward reaching a long-term ceasefire arrangement between Israel and Hamas, a recent IDF intelligence assessment stated that Hamas does not want to include the return of the remains of the IDF soldiers, Goldin and St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul, and the two missing Israeli civilians as part of the arrangement, whereas Israel wants them to be included.
On Tuesday, Tzur Goldin, the twin brother of Hadar Goldin, told a crowd at a panel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem that the state abandoned the soldiers while making deals to allow the export of strawberries from the blockaded coastal enclave.
“There’s a gas pipeline that went under the radar last week and was arranged to enter the Strip. Are Hadar or [Avera] Mengistu or other IDF soldiers who were left behind worth less than a gas pipeline or a deal for strawberries? Is the Qatari money which pays the salaries of Hamas officials in Gaza worth more than Hadar and Oron?” Goldin asked at the panel, which was also attended by Aviram Shaul, the brother of Oron Shaul.
“Freeing terrorists is not the only way to release prisoners and missing persons. In two months, US President Trump is going to introduce his ‘Deal of the Century.’ Will the captive soldiers and missing persons be included in the deal? We are in an election campaign and, in my opinion, all the parties should make the issue of the return of the boys a top priority in their campaigns and present a ready alternative,” he said.