Hours after thwarting car bombing, two Givati soldiers killed in ambush

Two Israeli soldiers were killed and four others were injured, one seriously, when they were ambushed Saturday evening by armed Palestinians near Dugit, in the northern Gaza Strip. At least one Palestinian was killed; the others managed to escape. The clash came hours after the same army unit thwarted a large-scale terrorist attack by destroying a car rigged with explosives and mortar shells.

The soldiers killed in the incident were identified as Staff Sergeant Hezki Gutman, 22, from Beit El, and Sergeant Sergei Alexei Gladkov, 20 from Beer Sheva. The two were members of the Givati Brigade's Orev (Raven) unit. Their commander, Lt. Anatoly Karsik, was seriously injured and Second Lt. Sa'ar Elul sustained light injuries.

The IDF said Givati Brigade soldiers were deployed to the area shortly before 8 p.m. after receiving warnings of plans by terrorists to perpetrate an attack in one of the nearby settlements. "We went into action with 11 soldiers on foot patrol, and when the gunfire started, two additional units from the Brigade arrived, and another force from Alei Sinai," Elul told ynet. "While we were searching the area, we came upon a terrorist who opened fire with his Kalashnikov rifle. In the initial gunfire, the two soldiers were killed and Anatoly was seriously injured. We continued to storm the terrorist until we killed him."

Army Radio reported that two gunmen were apparently killed. OC Northern Gaza District Col. Yoel Strick estimated that three or four terrorists participated in the attack. The Izzadin al-Qassam military wing of the Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.

Car bomb contained 180 kilograms of explosives Earlier Saturday, Givati soldiers under Karsik's command detected a suspicious vehicle near the perimeter fence of Dugit. Karsik said that after they received intelligence reports of a possible car bomb, his unit spotted a small blue vehicle in Palestinian-controlled territory, some 700 meters (770 yards) south of Alei Sinai. The car appeared to be deserted and was not recognized by anyone.

"We recognize the vehicles used by the locals, but this car was not familiar," he said.

A tank shell destroyed the vehicle. "Destroying it with a tank was the safest way," Karsik said. "We did not want to expose our soldiers to the possibility the car could blow up on them."

Security officers said the car contained some 180kg (396 lbs) of explosives, mortar shells and launchers. Soldiers discovered an additional charge planted nearby, intended for a delayed detonation to injure rescue crews.

On Wednesday, security forces blew up a car containing an estimated 150kg (330 lbs) of explosives and two mortar shells near Alei Sinai. In recent weeks, IDF forces have encountered some 15 large explosive charges in the northern Gaza Strip. Nearly all were planned as multi-stage operations, where additional charges would explode after soldiers and rescue teams were dealing with the results of the initial explosions.

In recent months, the Givati Brigade's Orev unit has been active in the northern Gaza Strip and has prevented a number of infiltration attempts into the settlements of Dugit, Alei Sinai and Nisanit, as well as thwarting an attempt by armed Palestinians to swim to shore on June 7. On October 2, 2001, the unit's commander was seriously injured and two Israelis were killed when Palestinians staged a terrorist attack in Alei Sinai.

"We are talking about a war here, and sadly, in a war we also have casualties," Strick said yesterday. "I can say that recently our forces have managed to thwart a number of terrorist attacks, and this time the clash (in which two soldiers were killed) took place deep in enemy territory, and the terrorists did not manage to reach the settlements."

Ellis Shuman Israelinsider

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