Jerusalem – Seven armed Palestinian terrorists were killed Monday in the course of Israel Defense Force activity in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun.
The incident occurred in the afternoon in the course of operational activity that was being pursued by the Givati Brigade’s reconnaissance battalion in Beit Hanoun. According to the IDF’s account, the troops reported a group of approximately 10 armed men that were advancing toward them, and they received authorization to open fire. In that engagement, a number of Palestinians were hit and, subsequently, a few dozen more armed Palestinian men ran to the scene and began to clash with the IDF forces. Tanks that were operating in the area opened fire and artillery was also used.
The IDF fire resulted in the death of Atta Fuad Shanbari, the commander of the Popular Resistance Committees in the northern Gaza Strip, and six others. Israeli security officials said that Shanbari, 32, was responsible for much of the Kassam rocket fire into Israel. Two of Shanbari’s brothers were also killed in the exchanges of fire. Three other family members were also killed: Riad Shanbari and his two brothers. Riad Shanbari was the commander of a branch of Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades in Beit Hanoun. The seventh Palestinian killed was an activist in the Popular Front who apparently took part in the Palestinian gunfire at the IDF soldiers.
The Palestinians reported a completely different account of the event. They said that two feuding families were in the middle of a conflict, and that some of the men on either side were armed. The IDF, say the Palestinian sources, intervened in the conflict and killed young men from both vying families. The commander of the Givati Brigade’s reconnaissance battalion, Lt. Col. Guy, denied those allegations.
PA Chairman Abu Mazen condemned the IDF operation sharply, and said, “this is a criminal massacre against our people as they are celebrating the first day of Eid el-Fitr.”
The Israeli army infantry troops had entered the Gaza Strip at night and positioned themselves in one of the buildings in Beit Hanoun from which they hoped to ambush those operating Kassam rocket cells. The following afternoon, armed Palestinian men approached the building in which the elite troops were hunkered down. In the first burst of fire that the IDF troops fired, two armed men were killed. In the ensuing exchanges of fire, which were quite extended, another four armed men were killed. The seventh Palestinian, a Popular Front activist, was killed as the IDF troops withdrew from the town.
“We hade no intention of ruining the Eid el-Fitr celebrations, but the security of the residents of Israel is no less important than the holiday and, as such, the IDF will continue its activities,” said one of the IDF district commanders Monday.
IDF sources underscored that the incident was not, as the Palestinians claimed, a planned targeted killing operation to take out Atta Shanbari. Rather, they said, it was the chance result of a battle that was waged by members of an elite Givati Brigade company.
“Shanbari was involved, from head to toe, in Kassam rocket fire. He deserved a targeted killing operation, given the terrorist activity he was involved in, but, ultimately, he was killed in a chance battle,” said an IDF official Monday.
Sources in Gaza said that Shanbari had been on Israel’s most wanted list for a long time and that Israel had blown up his house in Beit Hanoun approximately one and a half months ago. The Palestinian sources said that Shanbari was killed by undercover IDF troops who had infiltrated the Gaza Strip and had opened fire on the family, which had come to visit relatives.
©The Bulletin 2006