A covert raid in Gaza gone wrong left 7 Hamas members and an IDF soldier dead amid high-stakes ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas. Plus, progress on the deal is revealed in the payment of Hamas salaries by Qatar, and the opening of a sea lane. In Jordan, flash floods kill 12 and force the evacuation of Petra.
7 Hamas, 1 IDF Killed in Covert Operation
A clandestine IDF operation in the Gaza Strip on Saturday night targeting a leader of Hamas’ military wing burst into a firefight that left an IDF officer and 7 Hamas members, including the target, dead.
Another IDF officer was moderately wounded during a brazen operation which appears to have been an assassination or intelligence mission gone awry that ended in the death of Hamas military commander Nour Baraka and others.
Reports from Israeli and Palestinian sources indicate that the IDF team infiltrated the Gaza Strip by car near Khan Younis in southern Gaza. Ha’aretz reports that Palestinian officials said the group of Hamas men were fired at from a passing car around 9:30 p.m.
A Hamas source told Al Jazeera that the car carrying the IDF special unit then tried to escape but were pursued by Hamas engaging in a car chase firefight as they raced to reach safety. The Israeli air force launched a slew of airstrikes to cover for the retreating team until they escaped.
The Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit said the shooting occurred “during security activity by the IDF in the Gaza area,” but the exchange of weapons and exposed presence of IDF special forces on the ground in Gaza indicate that this operation was not part of the ordinary security activity against the weekly rioters and missile launches.
This is the first known Israeli ground incursion into Gaza since Operation Protective Edge, in July 2014, that triggered a seven-week war.
Shortly after the operation, rumors began and the unit took the unusual step of issuing a statement clarifying that “No member of our forces was abducted during the security incident” and that “additional details will follow.”
Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum called the attack "cowardly Israeli aggression" and added that the Palestinian resistance is ready to retaliate. At least ten projectiles have since been fired at Israel from Gaza since the escalation broke out, according to the IDF.
Over 100 projectiles have since been fired at Israel from Gaza since the escalation broke out, according to the IDF. Southern border communities have been advised to seek shelter as the Iron Dome system engages the rockets. A bus was hit by a mortar or rocket leaving a teen in critical condition, according to Jerusalem Post, and there are reports of a direct hit to the Sderot industrial area and a gas tank explosion. The Israeli air force is responding with airstrikes across the Gaza Strip. This is a video of a rocket barrage being intercepted by the Iron Dome on Monday.
The incident occurred during high-stake negotiations to ease the Gaza blockade and put an end to the weekly hostilities at the Gaza border, and it will likely make negotiations much more difficult.
Update on Gaza Deal
Some progress has already been made. Israel struck a deal with Qatar to allow Qatari payment for $15 million worth of Hamas’ civilian official’s July salaries and has allowed new shipments of diesel fuel to Gaza’s power plant.
In addition, Qatar and Israel have agreed to establish a sea passage between Cyprus and the Gaza Strip that would be monitored by international forces and under Israeli security supervision, according to Ha’aretz.
These concessions and increased Egyptian involvement, such as a monitoring team at the Gaza border, indicate more willingness to relax tensions, but they aren’t sitting well with everyone on both the Israeli and the Palestinian domestic fronts.
The aid sent into Gaza has deepened the rift between the Palestinian factions; the Palestinian Authority is trying to impede negotiations with Hamas because it undermines the authority of the PA factions in the Gaza Strip. The internal fighting reaches down to the ground level too. On Friday, youths with stones attacked the vehicle of the Qatari ambassador at an encampment east of Gaza while Hamas' police force tried to move them away.
Israeli politicians, too, are not in agreement over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the Gaza situation especially in regard to the deal for the payment of Hamas salaries by Qatar.
These initial allowances may be an attempt to show some progress against the ticking time bomb that is the humanitarian crisis inside Hamas-run Gaza, but a long-term deal is yet to be struck.
Jordan Flooding Kills 12, Evacuates Petra
Catastrophic flooding in Jordan on Friday has killed at least 12 and forced the evacuation of nearly 4,000 tourists from the ancient city of Petra.
Flash floods triggered by heavy rainfall have swept through the canyons and dry riverbeds of Jordan catching many off guard and unprepared for the gushing water. In Petra, walls of water gushed through canyons forcing thousands of tourists to seek higher ground. At least 12 have died in the most recent floods including two children and a rescue diver, but more are unaccounted for.
The recent floods are the result of the biggest deluge in the area in decades, local officials told the Associated Press.
These deaths come just weeks after 21 people, mostly children, died in flash floods near the Dead Sea leading to the resignation of the Jordanian tourism and education ministers. Israel dispatched a search and rescue team to assist in that recovery operation at the request of the Jordanian government.
The severity of the recent floods and relatively high death tolls has led experts to warn of dire consequences if the government does not take a number of measures - including land use planning and infrastructure development - to prevent such tragedies, according to an Al Jazeera report. Much of the tragedy, they say, is connected to poor urban planning that creates concrete jungles inadequately equipped to deal with the amount of water dropped in heavy squalls created by the changing climate.
A BBC Video shows the dramatic moment a flash flood pours into Petra.