IDF strikes six Gaza targets in retaliation to shooting of Defense Ministry employee

Palestinian toddler reportedly killed, three Palestinians injured; Netanyahu warns: Don't test Israel's resolve.

IAF jet 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
IAF jet 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
All eyes were on the Palestinian terrorist factions, to see how they would respond on Tuesday evening, after the IDF launched a large-scale retaliation in Gaza, to an unprovoked Palestinian cross-border sniper attack that killed a young Defense Ministry employee.
The attack marked Israel’s first casualty from Gazan terrorism since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012.
Salah Shukri Abu Latyef, 22, a Beduin Israeli from Rahat, was working for Shabbat Drilling & Excavation Co., contracted by the Defense Ministry to carry out engineering work on the border fence, when he was shot in the chest. He was airlifted to Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba where he later died.
“This was his first day working on the Gaza Strip border, and unfortunately it was also his last day of life,” Latyef’s cousin said.
“The incident occurred very close to the border,” a security source said.
The IDF employed the air force, Armored Corps and infantry to strike six targets in Gaza, affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, constituting Israel’s largest military response in the Strip since Operation Pillar of Defense.
Gaza hospital officials said a three-year-old girl was killed by shrapnel during the strike on the Bureij facility.
She was standing with other family members outside their home, near the camp, and her mother and two of her brothers were wounded, the officials said. Hamas released a photo of the girl’s body wrapped in a blue blanket in a morgue.
The strikes’ targets included training sites, weapons manufacturing facilities and a concealed rocket launcher in central Gaza as well as in the north of the Strip, the IDF said.
During the IDF’s wave of attacks, infantry soldiers struck targets with anti-tank missiles.
“We take a severe view of this, because it occurred on Israeli territory,” a senior security source said of the cross-border shooting.
He described the targets hit in Gaza as “terror infrastructure targets” belonging to Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
“We’re seeking a strong response, but also to contain this. We do not want to escalate, but we are on high alert in case this deteriorates,” the source said.
“We’re prepared for further steps if necessary,” the source said. “We identified accurate strikes of the targets. All of our planes returned to their bases safely,” the IDF spokesman added.
“Terrorist organizations have made it their goal to harm Israeli civilians. The IDF will act with determination against any element seeking to carry out terror against the State of Israel. Hamas is the address and it is responsible.”
Officials from Hamas, and witnesses, said an IAF aircraft bombed the group’s training camps in Khan Younis and Bureij. Witnesses said IDF tanks fired shells east of Gaza City.
An IDF spokesman said the military had limited the access of farmers working in the immediate vicinity of the fence in the aftermath of the attack.
In a separate incident, a Palestinian youth who approached the fence on the border with northern Gaza entered the closed security zone, ignoring calls by soldiers to vacate the area. He was shot in the leg and evacuated to a Gazan hospital by the Red Crescent.
The cross-border shooting comes after a spate of attempts by Palestinians to plant explosives along the security fence and to damage the barrier, in recent days.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said there was “no direct relation” between terrorist attacks in Israel over the past two days and the Gazan cross-border violence.
“We take a most severe view of them. In Gaza, Hamas is sovereign, and we see it as being responsible for today’s shooting from the Strip and the rocket launches at Israel over the past few days. We will not allow a disruption to life in the South, and we will respond decisively and painfully to attacks on our sovereignty and against our civilians and soldiers,” the defense minister said.
He advised Hamas “not to test our patience,” calling on Gaza’s ruling regime to exercise its authority on the ground to prevent further attacks on Israel by other organizations.
“If there won’t be quiet in Israel, there won’t be quiet in Gaza either,” Ya’alon warned.
He ordered the Kerem Shalom border crossing closed to goods until further notice, due to the security situation.
Shortly after midnight, on Sunday, Palestinian terrorists fired a rocket into southern Israel, triggering an air raid siren, sending residents fleeing for cover.
Security forces located the rocket’s remains after sunrise in an Israeli village, where it fell between homes, failing to cause wounds or damages.
Yasser Okbi, Jerusalem Post staff and Reuters contributed to this report.