IDF soldier killed, another wounded in border attack

Terrorists ambush soldiers who are providing water to migrants; soldiers return fire, kill 2 gunmen, Border Patrol kills 3rd.

Tal Russo surveys scene of border incident (photo credit: IDF Spokesman's Office)
Tal Russo surveys scene of border incident
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman's Office)
Terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula opened fire on IDF soldiers on the Israeli-Egyptian border on Friday, killing one soldier and wounding a second, before the gunmen were killed in return fire.
Twenty-year-old Netanel Yahalomi, of the IDF Artillery Corps, was shot in the head as he and his unit were giving water to African migrants who had arrived on the border.
Shots were fired at IDF Artillery Corps and Karkal (Wildcat) battalion – an infantry force made up of male and female combat soldiers – from a distance of 100 meters. The soldiers instantly returned fire, shooting dead two terrorists, said IDF spokesman Brig-Gen. Yoav Mordechai. One of the terrorists was shot by a female Karkal battalion soldier.
A group of Border Patrol undercover soldiers also responded to the incident, giving chase and killing the third, the Border Patrol stated.
In the heavy exchanges of fire, a suicide bomb belt around one of the terrorists went off. Shrapnel from that blast lightly injured a soldier from the Artillery Corps. One of the terrorists attempted to approach the soldiers, apparently intending to set off explosives. He was shot dead before he could come near them.
Yahalomi and the lightly injured soldier were airlifted to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, where doctors battled to save Yahalomi’s life.
Yahalomi succumbed to his injuries soon after arrival.
“The IDF stopped a very big terrorist attack,” Mordechai said. “The terrorists planned on going on a killing spree, either inside Israel or along the border.”
IDF sappers recovered a large number of firearms and explosives from the terrorists after the incident, including an RPD machine gun, three rocket- propelled grenade launchers, Kalashnikov guns, ammunition, grenades, a second suicide bomb belt and personal equipment. The terrorists were dressed in civilian clothing.
The attack occurred along a 17-km. stretch of the border where the fence has not yet been completed, in the Har Harif area.
“We don’t believe this was a kidnapping attempt,” Mordechai added.
OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Tal Russo arrived on the scene and inspected the area where fighting took place.
“We will reach those behind the attack,” he vowed from the shooting scene.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz held a special evaluation of the situation.
Security forces are attempting to figure out whether the terrorists were Salafi jihadi elements from Sinai, or whether they originated from the Gaza Strip.
“We don’t believe this is an isolated attack, we will see more of these incidents in the future,” said Col. Guy Biton, commander of the Sagi Battalion.
“There are many terror cells in Sinai, from Gaza and local groups. Where there are terror nests we will face attacks.”
Yahalomi, of the religious town of Nof Ayalon in central Israel, was laid to rest early Sunday morning in Modi’in.
The IDF promoted him posthumously to the rank of corporal.
Yahalomi’s father, Shmuel, told Ma’ariv that despite his low medical profile, his son insisted on serving in the Artillery Corps, thereby following in Shmuel’s footsteps. Shmuel added that this son viewed service in the army as an all-important mission.
The Sinai Peninsula has become a hornet’s nest of jihadi activity, and is also often used by Gaza terror elements to launch attacks on the southern border.
On Wednesday, three Palestinian terrorists were killed in an air strike in Gaza. They were planning to carry out an imminent terror attack in Israel, and in the past had attempted to smuggle explosives out of Gaza and into Israel through Sinai. The terrorists belonged to the Hamas offshoot group Defenders of al-Aksa.
Last month, terrorists with explosives in Sinai murdered 16 Egyptian security personnel and tried to burst through the Israeli border with vehicles they hijacked from an Egyptian base. The IDF stemmed the attack and destroyed the hijacked vehicle, killing the terrorists.
In 2011, eight Israelis were murdered by a terror cell that crossed into Israel from Egypt’s Sinai.
Ben Hartman and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.