IDF tracker killed in Gaza operation

Palestinian gunmen confront troops as they enter home.

tank convoy gaza 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
tank convoy gaza 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The first IDF casualty in Gaza in over two months, an IDF Bedouin tracker was killed Tuesday during a gunbattle near the Kissufim Crossing between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen. For a Jerusalem Online video of events click here The tracker, a 44-year-old non-commissioned officer and father of 10 children, was assigned to a Paratrooper reserve unit operating in the central Gaza Strip, a few hundred meters from the border fence in the central Gaza Strip. The force entered a Palestinian home where they were engaged by two armed gunmen. The tracker was shot in the head and critically wounded and died a short time later. The armed wing of Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the shooting. IDF paratroopers and combat engineers, accompanied by tanks, had been operating in the Deir el-Balah area, a few hundred meters from the Gaza-Israel border fence, since Monday night in an attempt to destroy Palestinian terrorist infrastructure and specifically uncover tunnels being dug from Gaza into Israel. The paratrooper reserve force discovered the opening of a hole near the house where the tracker was killed and the IDF said it was possible that the hole was the initial stages in the digging of a terror tunnel. Kidnapped soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit was abducted by Hamas after terrorists crossed into Israel in an tunnel they had dug from Gaza into Israel near Kerem Shalom. Overnight Monday, IAF aircraft struck a warehouse containing large stocks of weapons in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians said that the blast destroyed the home of a senior Hamas operative. No one was wounded in the attack. The house belonged to a Hamas official who worked with Interior Minister Said Siyyam, a Palestinian security official said. The family was warned by phone shortly before the attack that the house would be targeted, and escaped unharmed, added the official. Meanwhile Tuesday, Egyptian security forces discovered a weapon cache that police said was on its way to being smuggled into the Gaza Strip through an underground tunnel. The weapons included 32 automatic rifles, 28 pistols, large amounts of ammunition and some explosives, said Capt. Mahmoud Ali of the North Sinai police. Acting on intelligence information, security forces were keeping a close eye on the border for possible arms smuggling, Ali said. The weapons were found near a tunnel in the border town of Rafah. No one was arrested in the operation, he said. AP contributed to the report.