Photo: AP
IDF troops near Gaza fence (archive photo)
Photo: AP
Photo: AP
IDF bulldozer in action (archive photo)
Photo: AP
IDF troops enter Gaza
IDF engineering forces search for explosive devices inside Gaza Strip following killing of two Palestinian terrorists Wednesday night; military official characterizes move as 'defensive,' says similar operations may follow
An IDF force entered the Gaza Strip in order to secure a road 50 meters (about 150 feet) beyond the Gaza security fence Thursday afternoon.


The move follows the killing of two terrorists who attempted to place a bomb south of the Kissufim crossing last night.


The move marks the first time IDF troops enter Gaza since the disengagement. In the past, PA police officers would neutralize explosive devices placed by terrorists, but as a result of the severance of ties with the Hamas-led government, soldiers were forced to complete the mission themselves.


IDF engineering troops scoured the area in order to ensure no explosive devices were left behind at the site. Such bombs could threaten soldiers patrolling the Gaza security fence. The operation lasted several hours but no explosives were discovered.


Army officials said the operation had to be carried out in light of the circumstances.


"We're not talking about a ground operation in the Strip but rather, handling a specific incident using a military force, after commanders on the ground ruled this was the correct way to protect soldiers," an IDF Southern Command official said.


A senior Gaza Division officer told Ynet: "We had to discount the possibility of a detonation of an explosive device against forces in the future, and that's why we chose this operation."


"It's possible the terrorists wanted us to reach the fence in order to hurt the troops or detonate the device using another terrorist left behind. We scoured the area in order to identify the path used by the terrorists," the officer said.


Calculated risk


The operation lasted a number of hours under the supervision of Colonel Monni Katz, commander of brigade that killed the two terrorists on Wednesday.


“Shortly after IDF troops left Gaza there were still a number of incidents that went inside for the purpose of specific tasks, but over the last three months, the level of coordination with the Palestinians was such that it did not require operations of theiskind,” the senior officer said.


“If such level of coordination was preserved today, maybe we would have given up the entry but in the situation that has been created we cannot take a risk that a jeep passing in the area would be hit by an explosives device," he said.


Two weeks ago, 50 meters from this post, a series of devices were buried…when I make an armored vehicle like a D-9 bulldozer enter, it scours the area and defuses any future threat,” he added.

The officer revealed that this week an explosion took place in the area and therefore suspicions are high that a device has been buried in the area.


Asked if the incursion into Gaza put soldiers at risk, the officer said: “Ehe decision to send troops to secure the route is better than leaving the situation as it is and causing future danger for forces moving on the Israeli side of the security barrier.”


Similar operations to follow?


Following the Hamas government rise to power and instructions by the political echelon to the IDF to sever relations with their Palestinian counterparts, Thursday's operation signifies a first change in operational patterns.


The severed ties between Israeli and the Palestinian officers created a new situation where the IDF has to verify on its own that there are no explosives placed along the fence. Since the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip about 40 explosive devices have been found – some weighing dozens of kilograms - and about 30 armed terrorists belonging to the cells that placed explosives have been killed.


"Lately the ties between the IDF and the Palestinian officers have eroded and now they have been completely severed because of the Hamas government", an IDF official said "Commanders in the area decided that the best way to neutralize the threat of an explosive device is to secure the route and that's what was done. It's possible that similar measures will follow the future. This is not an entry for aggression purposes, but rather, a defensive measure meant to prevent attacks on soldiers."


First published: 13.04.06, 18:29
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