Another Israeli APC destroyed in Gaza

Special to World
Thursday, May 13, 2004

GAZA CITY Palestinian insurgents destroyed another Israeli armored personnel carrier in the Gaza Strip.

It was the second time in as many days that insurgents destroyed an Israeli APC in the Gaza Strip. The APC was carrying a a ton of explosives that blew up and killed all five crew members in the combat vehicle along the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip.

"An armored personnel carrier, responsible for the detonation of the tunnels, was struck and subsequently exploded while preparing to detonate a tunnel," an Israeli military statement said. "The explosion was apparently a result of an RPG fired at the force."

The blast on Wednesday evening tore apart the U.S.-origin M113 APC and pieces of the vehicle as well as parts of the bodies of soldiers flew into the adjacent Palestinian refugee camp of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing.

"We don't really know what happened yesterday," Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon told a news conference outside Rafah on Thursday. "This is being investigated."

The destruction of the two Israeli APCs has sparked what military sources termed an intensified effort to locate and eliminate Palestinian insurgency strongholds in the Gaza Strip. The sources said the military plans a series of combined armored, infantry and air operations in the Gaza Strip over the next few days. They said the navy would also participate in the missions.

"We have to think of the following day," Lt. Col. Ofer Winter, commander of the Givati infantry brigade's reconnaissance unit, said. "After three or four hours of sleep, the soldiers are preparing for the next operation."

The APC destroyed on Wednesday was part of a convoy on patrol along the Egyptian-Gaza Strip border to detect tunnels full of explosives that connect Rafah to neighboring Egypt and meant to destroy Israeli armored vehicles.

The lead vehicle in convoy, an armored D-9 bulldozer, was disabled by a mine and two soldiers were injured.

When the APC moved to help, it was struck by what appeared to be a rocket-propelled grenade that blew up the explosives inside the vehicle. The explosion took place along an eight-kilometer 20-meter wide border route called "Philalelphi." Military sources said this area was the most violent in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"We conducted hundreds of such operations in the past and there were no casualties," Winter said. "But we always knew that this could happen."

Israeli troops and combat vehicles came under fire by Palestinian insurgents as they searched for the bodies of the Israeli casualties.

Ya'alon said that in the fighting Israeli troops killed nine Palestinians, seven of them in an AH-64A Apache helicopter missile strike. He said Egyptian authorities allowed Israeli military representatives to search for the Israeli bodies on the Egyptian side of the border.

So far, Israel's military detected and destroyed at least 11 tunnels in 2004. Military sources said Southern Command had increased patrols along the Egyptian border in wake of intelligence that Palestinian insurgents were trying to smuggle Soviet-origin Katyusha rockets into the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday, an M113 APC was destroyed by a mine detonated by Palestinian insurgents in Gaza City. Six Israeli soldiers were killed and Palestinian insurgents made off with the parts of the bodies of the Israelis as well as subsystems of the M113.

On late Wednesday, Jihad returned the body parts in a deal arranged by Egypt. At the same time, Israeli troops and combat vehicles left the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City, the target of an earlier Israeli attack on Palestinian weapons laboratories.

Israeli military sources said the success of Palestinian attacks on Israeli APCs reflect training and explosives relayed by Hizbullah. They said Hamas and Jihad insurgents have been trained in the production of mines, rockets and other weapons.

Palestinian sources said 24 Palestinians have been killed in fighting with Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip since Tuesday, at least 10 of them in Rafah on Thursday. Overnight Thursday, Hamas gunners fired a Kassam-class short-range missile toward a community in Israel. An Israeli woman was injured.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

Print this Article Print this Article Email this article Email this article Subscribe to this Feature Free Headline Alerts

Search Worldwide Web Search Search WorldTrib Archives