Condition of soldier seriously hurt in Gaza improves

Palestinians: 3 gunmen, one civilian killed, 15 hurt; ground forces, aircraft target Kassam crews.

IDF gaza fence 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
IDF gaza fence 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
There was a marked improvement Monday morning in the condition of the soldier who was seriously wounded during an exchange of fire with gunmen in the southern Gaza Strip the previous day. A Soroka Hospital spokesman said that the soldier had regained consciousness and was listed in moderate condition. The soldier, a member of the IDF's elite General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal) was evacuated by helicopter to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba. Troops backed by aircraft and tanks clashed with Palestinian operatives firing mortar shells and machine guns near Gaza's defunct international airport, killing three gunmen and a civilian, health officials said. Fifteen people, including several gunmen, were wounded in the fighting, which erupted at about 1 a.m. Sunday after undercover troops took over several homes near the airport in southern Gaza. Tanks and bulldozers moved in to back up the troops, and IAF aircraft struck twice, Hamas said. In one air strike, three gunmen were killed, including two from Hamas and one from the Popular Resistance Committees, said Health Ministry official Dr. Moawiya Hassanain. A civilian was also killed in the clashes, Hassanain said. The IDF said the operation was aimed at terrorists who regularly fire rockets and mortar shells at southern Israel. It said one of the air strikes was aimed at operatives approaching soldiers. As part of the army raid, bulldozers were razing farmlands in an effort to deny rocket squads cover, and the army was carrying out arrest sweeps of men under 45, Hamas security and residents said. According to Hamas, at least 25 men were arrested. Separately, a Hamas operative died of wounds sustained in an IAF air strike last week. Also Sunday, IDF troops arrested 16 terror suspects in the West Bank. They were taken to security forces for questioning. In a Nablus building where one of the suspects was hiding the soldiers found makeshift weapons and ammunition.