GroundBrief: Palestinian militant attempts to assassinate IDF colonel at the Gaza border on Friday

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Curator: Joe Truzman

On Friday afternoon, a Palestinian sniper fired at IDF soldiers stationed at the Gaza border during the weekly March of Return. Two soldiers were injured and were evacuated to Soroka hospital. The IDF retaliated against Hamas by bombing one of its compounds in central Gaza killing two militants and injuring several others. Israeli media outlets reported a senior IDF officer may have been the target of the attack.

After gathering photographic and video evidence, GroundBrief believes the target was the commander of the southern Gaza division, Colonel Liron Batito.

In the above picture, a group of soldiers are photographed before the attack occurred; a tracker looking at a map, a female soldier in the middle looking at her phone and Col. Batito on the right looking towards Palestinians protesting near the security fence.

As Palestinians gathered in front of the security fence where the IDF soldiers were standing, several shots were fired. Initially, Palestinians reacted as if the shots were directed towards them. However, these were the shots fired by a Palestinian militant at the soldiers standing near the fence. You can watch the video in full and hear the firing of a sniper rifle here.

With the assistance from Obs_IL, different video sources and maps were analyzed to geolocate the approximate area of the attack.

A short time after the attack, IDF reinforcements arrived to evacuate the wounded. At the top of the picture, a soldier is in a stretcher and a female soldier is bandaged on her left leg.

The IDF vehicle used to evacuate the wounded soldiers used the road in the map heading towards the radio tower.

After the evacuation of the injured soldiers, the IDF retaliated against the al-Qassam Brigades Battalion 13 compound in the central Gaza Strip. Several al-Qassam members were seriously injured in the attack. The injured were rushed to al-Aqsa hospital where two died of wounds sustained in the airstrike.

The al-Qassam militants killed in the IDF strikes were Abdullah Ibrahim Malloh, a field commander, and Alaa al-Bubli.

A mortar round struck one of the March of Return camps near the site of the attack. It is unclear if it was fired by the IDF or militants.

Rocket attacks and IAF retaliation were expected overnight on Friday but never materialized. However, on Saturday morning, militant groups comprised of the Joint Operations Room, launched hundreds of rockets at Israeli communities.

The IDF retaliated against the rocket attacks by targeting militant compounds and killing militant artillery squads attempting to fire rockets against Israel.

On Sunday morning, the IDF and Shin Bet assassinated Hamden Hamdan al-Hadery, an al-Qassam Brigades commander. He is thought to be responsible for the transfer of funds from Iran to Hamas.

Militants retaliated by attacking an IDF vehicle with an ATGM near the Gaza border a short time after the assassination. There is no official information from the IDF if there were casualties.

It is suspected the sniper attack on Friday afternoon was carried out by the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group. They've claimed responsibility for a previous sniper attack on an IDF soldier several months ago. Also, militant groups published a warning of an attack a day prior to the incident at the border.

It is in the interest of Israel to keep the border as calm as possible due with Eurovision beginning May 14th in Tel-Aviv. It is likely Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas will use this event to destabilize the Gaza border — concurrent with Eurovision. Israel can’t risk igniting a war during Eurovision, which Hamas knows and will attempt to take advantage of by extracting as much as possible from Israel in a future deal for calm at the border.

There hasn't been confirmation from the IDF that Col. Batito was the target of the attack, yet evidence reviewed by GroundBrief points in that direction. There have been threats against Israeli soldiers by militant groups in Gaza if Palestinians were to be hurt or killed during the March of Return, which occurred a few hours prior to the sniper attack against the group of soldiers. It is likely the IDF will conduct an investigation into what happened at the border.