|2006 Gaza cross-border raid|
|Part of Israel-Gaza conflict|
|Location||Israeli army post near the Kerem Shalom border crossing, on the Israeli side of the fence|
25 June 2006|
Around 5:30 am (GMT+2)
|Shooting attack, kidnapping|
|Deaths||2 Israeli soldiers and 2 attackers|
|4 Israeli soldiers (one of them was Gilad Shalit)|
|Perpetrators||Presumably 7 to 8 militants. The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committees organization and the Army of Islam group claimed joint responsibility.|
The 2006 Gaza cross-border raid was a cross-border raid which was carried out on 25 June 2006 in which a Palestinian militant squad thought to consist of 7 to 8 militants managed to cross the border through an underground tunnel near the Kerem Shalom Crossing and attack Israel Defense Forces (IDF) military positions. In the attack, two IDF soldiers and two Palestinian militants were killed, four IDF soldiers were wounded, and one wounded soldier Gilad Shalit was captured and taken to the Gaza Strip.
Hamas' military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility, together with the Popular Resistance Committees (which includes members of Fatah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas), and a previously unknown group calling itself the Army of Islam.
This event led to the eruption of the Operation Summer Rains. Shalit was held as a hostage in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas, and was only released as part of a prisoner swap on 18 October 2011.
The attack and the capture
The day before the capture, the Israeli armee had seized two Palestinian men in an overnight raid into the southern Gaza Strip, who allegedly were members of Hamas and were planning attacks on Israel. Hamas said they were sons of a member but were not involved in Hamas.
On Sunday morning, 25 June 2006, at about 5:30 am (GMT+2) an armed squad of Palestinians militants from the Gaza Strip crossed the border into Israel via a 300-meter-long underground tunnel they dug near the Kerem Shalom border crossing. The militants surfaced in Israeli territory shielded by a row of trees, and came up behind IDF border positions facing Gaza. As militants from within the Gaza Strip bombarded the Israeli positions with mortar and anti-tank fire, the militant squad split into three cells.
One cell aligned itself behind a Merkava Mark III tank, another behind a concrete watchtower, and another behind an armored personnel carrier. The militants simultaneously opened fire on their targets. The militants that attacked the tank blew open its rear door with an RPG. The tank's gunner, Corporal Gilad Shalit, was wounded by the RPG blast, suffering a broken left hand and a light shoulder wound. Two of the militants then approached the tank. The RPG hit caused the tank to go up in flames, and its fire extinguisher system was activated. However, the engine stopped working and the ventilation system failed to work as a result, creating suffocating conditions inside. The tank's commander and driver climbed out to escape, and were gunned down by the militants. A militant then climbed onto the tank's turret and threw grenades into the tank, wounding another crew member. Afterwards, Corporal Shalit was forced out of the tank at gunpoint. They then fled to Gaza, taking Shalit with them. An Israeli tank commander witnessed their escape, but did not open fire in time, as he was awaiting permission.
The squad's third member was positioned near a road, and fired an RPG at an IDF jeep driven by a captain. After the captain returned fire, the militant fled towards a tunnel dug along the fence, throwing grenades. An IDF armored vehicle fired at him, but missed, and he escaped.
Two militants attacked the watchtower, raking it with RPG and small-arms fire, wounding two soldiers manning the tower. One militant crept towards the tower and placed an explosive charge next to the bottom doors. The ensuing explosion damaged the tower's communication cables. The militant then attempted to climb the stairs, while the second militant remained on the ground as backup. IDF soldiers in the tower spotted the militant climbing the stairs and opened fire, killing him in the upper part of the stairway. The second militant was spotted by an IDF lookout, and soldiers then opened fire and killed him.
Later, explosive charges left behind by the militants exploded while IDF troops were combing the area, lightly injuring three soldiers.
Immediately afterwards the Palestinian militant squad made their way back into the Gaza Strip, with Shalit, through the ground after they blew an opening in the security fence and disappeared. Meanwhile, large Israeli military forces arrived at the site and began helping the wounded. When they reached the tank the military forces discovered the two bodies and a wounded crewman. When it became clear that the fourth crew member was missing, an abduction alert was declared, and various Israeli forces entered Gaza.
The Palestinian militancy organizations responsible for raid took responsibility for the attack, for the first time, a day after the attack – the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (the armed wing of Hamas), the Popular Resistance Committees organization (which includes members of Fatah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas) and the Army of Islam group issued a joint statement on 26 June 2006, in which they claimed responsibility for the raid and offered information on Shalit only if Israel agreed to release all female Palestinian prisoners and all Palestinian prisoners under the age of 18, who were held without charges and tried without the right of defense.
Shalit became the first Israeli soldier captured by Palestinians since Nachshon Wachsman in 1994.
- Israeli soldiers
- Palestinian militants
- Muhammed Farawneh, 22, of Khan Yunis, Army of Islam member
- Hamed Rantisi, 22, of Rafah, Popular Resistance Committees member
A day after the attack, the following organizations claimed responsibility for the operation - the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (the armed wing of Hamas), the Popular Resistance Committees (which includes members of Fatah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas), and a previously unknown group calling itself the Army of Islam.
- Muhammed Farawneh, 22, of Khan Yunis, Army of Islam member
- Hamed Rantisi, 22, of Rafah, Popular Resistance Committees member
Following the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit, the IDF launched Operation Summer Rains. In addition various international bodies conducted diplomatic activity, among them Egypt, in an attempt to release Shalit. Due to the fact that Shalit is a French citizen, France attempted to release him through diplomatic means. However, the captors, who operated under the orders of Khaled Mashal and the Hamas military leadership, refused to release him. According to David Siegel, a spokesman at the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., “Israel did everything it could in exhausting all diplomatic options and gave Mahmoud Abbas the opportunity to return the abducted Israeli… This operation can be terminated immediately, conditioned on the release of Gilad Shalit.”
On the night of 28–29 June 2006, the IDF arrested dozens of Hamas leaders in the West bank, including 20 Palestinian parliament members and eight Palestinian ministers. This retaliation operation was reportedly planned several weeks in advance. On the same day, four Israeli Air Force aircraft flew over Syrian President Bashar Assad's palace in Latakia, as an IDF spokesperson said that Israel views the Syrian leadership as a sponsor of Hamas.
On 1 July 2006, Shalit's captors issued another demand to the Israelis, demanding that Israel release an additional 1,000 Palestinian prisoners (in addition to all female and young prisoners, as previously demanded) and end Israel's incursions into Gaza. Two days later, the captors issued a 24-hour ultimatum for meeting their demands, threatening unspecified consequences if Israel refused. Hours after the ultimatum was issued, Israel officially rejected the demands, stating that: "there will be no negotiations to release prisoners".
On 3 July 2006 Shalit's captors made an ultimatum according to which they demanded that Israel must fulfill all of its demands by 4 July 2006 at 6:00 am. However, the captors did not specify exactly what would happen if the demands were not met. The Israeli Prime Minister's office formally rejected the ultimatum. After the ultimatum period expired the Army of Islam group announced that no more information would be released about Shalit's fate.
Operation Summer Rains, which failed to achieve its main objective (the release of Shalit), ended on 26 November 2006 when the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas agreed on a cease-fire, after the Palestinian militancy organizations agreed to stop firing rockets on Sderot and after Israel agreed to cease IDF operations in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas high-ranking commander Abu Jibril Shimali, whom Israel considers responsible for coordinating the abduction of Shalit, was killed during the violent clashes between Hamas and the al-Qaida-affiliated Jund Ansar Allah organization in Gaza in August 2009.
On 2 October 2009, Israel received a video clip of 2:42 minutes length in which Gilad Shalit was filmed. In exchange, Israel released 20 Palestinian prisoners. During the same day the video clip was broadcast on television channels world wide. The video, which was published publicly after the Shalit family approval to do so, showed Gilad Shalit in uniform reading a pre-written message, in which he urged the Israeli government to finalize the deal for his release. In addition, during the video clip Shalit stood up for a few seconds and moved towards the camera so that his health condition would be evident in the video, as much as possible. In addition, during the video clip Shalit was holding an Arab newspaper from 14 September 2009 in order to prove that the video was recorded just before its release.
Shalit was freed in a prisoner exchange on 18 October 2011.
- Involved parties
- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated that Israel held the Palestinian Authority, the Hamas government and President Mahmoud Abbas "responsible for this event — with all this implies."
- Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz stated that "The Palestinians are responsible for the fate of the kidnapped soldier, and we will do everything in our power to retrieve him."
- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack and stated that "We have always warned against the danger of certain groups or factions leaving the national consensus and carrying out operations for which the Palestinian people will always have to pay the price". In addition Abbas called on the international community "to prevent Israel from exploiting the attack to carry out large-scale aggression in the Gaza Strip".
- Ghazi Hamad, the spokesman of the Hamas government in Gaza, called for Shalit's captors "to protect his life and treat him well" and called on Israel "not to escalate the situation."
- USA – The US state department released a statement saying "We urge both sides to exercise restraint and avoid steps which further escalate the situation"
- Gilad Shalit
- Israeli-Palestinian conflict
- 2006 Hezbollah cross-border raid
- Kidnapping of Nachshon Wachsman
- Sgt. Pavel Slutzker
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- Lt. Hanan Barak
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- Militants' Raid on Israel Raises Gaza Tension – New York Times
- Abbas condemns deadly attack on Israeli army post
- US urges restraint amid tension over kidnapped Israeli soldier – Forbes.com
- Palestinians launch raid from Gaza – published on TVNZ on 26 June 2006
- Gunmen use Gaza tunnel for raid / 4 die, 1 kidnapped as Palestinians catch Israeli army by surprise at border crossing – published on the San Francisco Chronicle on 26 June 2006
- Militants' Raid on Israel Raises Gaza Tension – published on the New York Times on 26 June 2006
- Palestinian militants infiltrate Israel, attack Israeli army post – published on the New York Times on 25 June 2006
- Israeli soldier 'seized' in raid – published on BBC News on 25 June 2006
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