Regarding Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' statements that the incident was a 'massacre', Biton said, "The Palestinians like to exaggerate reality and in this case the operation went smoother than ever and only gunmen were hit."
Abbas urged the international community to intervene in order to prevent a further escalation of the situation. He called on Israel and Palestinian armed groups to halt the fighting.
Riot in Gaza (Photo: AFP)
The Palestinians, however, claimed that six of those killed were family members of Atta Shanbari, a commander at the Salah al-Din Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committees' military wing.
Thirty others were wounded during the operation, with four listed in serious to critical condition.
Army officials expressed their satisfaction with the operation, claiming it was a legitimate act in the framework of the IDF’s attempt to apply pressure on terror groups and thus advance the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit and bring an end to the incessant Qassam rocket fire.
Lt. Col. Biton continued: “We engaged in close-range gun battles; initially we spotted a number of terrorists in the area, and we hit them with various weapons. More terrorists arrived a short while later and opened fire at our forces. We returned fire and struck all of the gunmen.
“During the fighting there was significant resistance on the part of the Palestinians, including mortar shell fire, but we were able to hit them and not sustain any injuries of our own. During one incident a bullet hit a soldier’s bullet-proof vest, and his life was saved.”
Biton referred to the operation as an “impressive achievement,” saying some of the the terrorists killed were involved in the firing of Qassam rockets at Israel.
The battalion commander said the army does not want to desecrate the Id el-Fitr holiday but will nevertheless continue to act against terror threats in the area.
“Even when we saw that a woman was shielding a dead terrorist with her body and another gunman arrived at the scene, we chose not to open fire so as not to endanger the civilian population,” Biton said.