10 Palestinian militants, Israeli commando killed after botched military operation
Seven Palestinians and an Israeli commando were killed when an Israeli special forces operation that appeared to go terribly wrong in the Gaza strip Sunday night.
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After hours of calm, a barrage of rockets was fired from Gaza into Israel on Monday afternoon.
The Israeli military says 200 launches were sent toward Israel, and the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted at least 60. The others landed in open areas, according to the military.
The Israeli Air Force launched more than 20 airstrikes against targets throughout Gaza.
At least seven Israelis were injured in the afternoon rocket fire, and the Palestinian Red Crescent says Israeli airstrikes killed three more Palestinian fighters inside Gaza.
The Israeli military said rockets hit multiple homes, and a bus that was driving close to the border in Israel.
Among the Palestinians who were killed was a Hamas military leader.
Following the incident, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly interrupted his trip to Paris, where he joined more than 60 world leaders to commemorate Armistice Day, and rushed back to Tel Aviv overnight.
Hamas says the Israelis launched an assassination operation two miles inside the Gaza Strip. But the Israeli military says it was an intelligence-gathering operation gone wrong.
The Israeli military chief, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, said a "special force" carried out "a very meaningful operation to Israel's security."
In a statement, Hamas says it all started when a plain-clothes Israeli special forces unit in a civilian car killed Nour Barakeh, 37, a mid-level commander in the Hamas military wing, Izzedine al-Qassam, in Khan Younis.
Hamas said the Israeli team was stopped at a checkpoint. The Israeli military said "an exchange of fire broke out, during which an IDF officer was killed and an additional IDF officer was moderately injured."
Both Hamas and the Israeli military agree that Hamas militants fought back and that the Israeli operatives were exposed. As they retreated toward Israel, the Israeli air force pounded the area, both governments say.
Hamas said six other Hamas fighters were killed and the Palestinian Health Ministry says seven additional people were injured.
The Palestinian funerals were held Monday afternoon.
The Israeli military says the commando, whom they only identified as Lt. Col. M., was killed and another soldier was injured. Both were brought back to Israel, the military said.
In a rare clarification of its operation, a military spokesperson said, "The special operation yesterday was not intended to kill or abduct terrorists, but to strengthen Israeli security."
It did not provide other details about the operation.
"The force waged a heroic and very complex battle," the military added.
The Israeli military says 17 rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel, and the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted at least three of them.
Sirens were heard in southern Israel overnight, and school is closed Monday in the communities surrounding Gaza.
The flare-up comes at a surprising time, with the Israeli prime minister overseas speaking specifically about avoiding "unnecessary war" with Gaza, but also as it appeared that Hamas and Israel moved closer to a ceasefire agreement.
On Friday, Israel allowed suitcases with $15 million of Qatari cash to enter Gaza to fund salaries of civil servants in Gaza. The cash came with vital fuel for a power plant, too.
For the first time in years, some Gaza residents had eight hours of electricity, a rarity in the decade-long blockade.
Netanyahu described the move as "the right step."
“We held serious discussions. It’s a question of alternatives,” Netanyahu said Saturday. “These things were done, under certain conditions, in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis.”
After arriving back in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu praised the Israeli commando for his service, tweeting, "Our forces acted courageously."