July 20, 2018: Aviv Levi, 20, a Staff Sergeant with the Israeli Army, was killed by sniper fire from Gaza. He was the first soldier to be killed by Palestinian fire since Israel’s offensive and major deadly assault in Gaza in 2014.
It is believed that the Levi was shot with a “Steyr HS .50” long range sniper rifle, since the bullet penetrated his military vest and killed him.
Senior Israeli Military officials said that they do not believe Hamas was behind the death of Aviv, who was shot with sniper fire from Gaza, and added that the person who shot the soldier acted without Hamas’s approval.
Israel believes that Hamas did not approve the shooting of the soldier, and had no knowledge of the attack, especially since senior political leaders of the movement, including its Political Bureau Chief Ismael Haniyya, were present in the protest areas.
It said that senior political leaders of the movement would not put themselves at such risk by being exposed near the firing zone if they had any knowledge about the use of live fire by the Palestinians.
They believe that the attack was carried out by a party that is not loyal to Hamas, and does not follow its directives.
It is worth mentioning that Israeli soldiers killed, on the same day, four Palestinians and injured 120 others, including 50 who were rushed to hospitals in the coastal region.
The army also dropped dozens of missiles into Palestinian areas in several parts of the coastal region, before an indirect ceasefire understanding was reached.
On Thursday, July 19, 2018, an Israeli army drone dropped a missile at Palestinians, east of Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, killing one, identified as Abdul-Karim Radwan, 22, and wounding three others.
The bombing came just hours after Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated that he was planning to launch a large-scale war in Gaza similar to the one in 2014, in which 2200 people were killed. In his statement, he said the ‘Palestinian people will pay the price’ for the continued non-violent protests at the border, which have been going on for 100 days.
Fawzi Barhoum, the spokesperson of Hamas in Gaza, said that Israel has chosen the path of war and offensive on Gaza and its people, by murdering unarmed protesters, and added that these killings have raised the bar of retaliation.
“Israel will be held accountable for its crimes; our resistance has the moral and legal duties to protect its people, despite the dire consequences of its retaliation,” Barhoum said, “Shelling will be met my shelling – the resistance is ready, and capable of retaliation and of fighting for the liberation of its people, for breaking the siege and continuing the struggle for independence.”
In announcing the death of the soldier, the Israeli military issued a statement that, “Hamas will be held accountable for this incident as well as the series of the terror activities it has been executing over the past months. Hamas has chosen to escalate the security situation and will bear the responsibility for its actions.”
The reference to ‘terror activities’ appears to be a reference to the three months of non-violent protests that Palestinians have engaged in at the Gaza-Israel border fence. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, in the period between March 30th and July 17th, 2018, Israeli forces killed 142 Palestinian non-violent demonstrators, and wounded 16,496.
7901 of the wounded were treated in field trauma stabilization units, while 8695 of the wounded were transferred to several hospitals. 17 of the slain Palestinians are children. 68 of the wounded had limbs amputated. Israeli army fire also caused damage to 58 Palestinian ambulances in several parts of the Gaza Strip.
During this period, Palestinian demonstrators have gathered each Friday at the border fence between Gaza and Israel for the ‘Great March of Return’, in which they are demanding a lifting of the decade of sanctions against Gaza, the opening of the border, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees to homes they were forcibly removed from in 1948 during the creation of the state of Israel.
Since the March of Return protests began on March 30th, the Israeli army killed 146 Palestinian protesters, including 17 children, two medics and two journalists. One Israeli soldier was killed in the same time period, in the West Bank, not Gaza, when a stone slab fell on his head from atop a building.
Aviv was from Petah Tikva, in central Israel. Source: IMEMC