An Israeli soldier was killed in a shootout with a Palestinian terrorist infiltrator from Gaza Friday morning, sparking a fierce exchange that threatened to plunge the Hamas-ruled coastal strip and southern Israel into another round of widespread violence.
Early Friday morning, a team of Israeli soldiers responded to an alert that the Gaza perimeter fence had been breached. Upon arriving at the site of the breach, they were engaged by a lone Palestinian gunman, who managed to mortally wound one of the Israeli soldiers before himself being killed.
The felled Israeli soldier was identified as 21-year-old St.-Sgt. Netanel Moshiashvili.
Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, and confirmed that their operative had infiltrated southern Israel with the intent of taking an Israeli hostage. Palestinian terror groups have been on the hunt for another Israeli hostage since managing to trade a single Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, for over 1,000 jailed Palestinian terrorists in a exchange with Israel last year.
Following Friday morning's incident, Israeli aircraft bombed open fields in Gaza as a warning to local terror groups. Islamic Jihad responded by firing several mortar shells into southern Israel, causing no injuries or damage.
By mid-afternoon, the situation appeared calm, but tensions remained, and Israeli forces were kept on high alert. Less severe incidents in the past have sparked days of heavy fighting in and around Gaza. Israeli military officials labeled the morning shootout a success, despite the death of Sgt. Moshiashvili, noting that had the terrorist managed to abduct an Israeli soldier or civilian another new "Gaza war" would have been likely.
* Photo: St.-Sgt. Netanel Moshiashvili (courtesy IDF Spokesperson)