IDF forces rescued dozens of Fatah members who were fleeing Gaza City under heavy machine gun, sniper and mortar fire, Northern Gaza Brigade Commander Colonel Ron Ashrov told Ynet Saturday night.
At around 5 pm, following the surrender of the Fatah-affiliated Hilles clan to Hamas security forces in Gaza City, dozens of fleeing clan members began making their way toward the Gaza-Israel border, where they were rescued by IDF forces and taken into Israel.
A total of 188 Palestinians were allowed entry into the country following the fierce clashes with Hamas, which left nine people dead and more than 80 wounded.
The rescue was authorized by Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the request Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and senior Egyptian officials.
The security establishment hopes to complete the transfer of the Palestinians to the West Bank as soon as possible. Military sources estimated that the current round of Palestinian infighting has come to an end.
'We waited until it was dark'
Most of the Palestinians who entered Israel are temporarily being held in IDF bases near Gaza. They will be interrogated overnight and then transferred to the West Bank.
"At the onset of the operation the Palestinians and IDF soldiers were targeted by machine gun, sniper and mortar fire from all directions," Colonel Ashrov said, "we returned fire, and then decided to wait until it was dark to complete the rescue. When evening came we resumed the operation and transferred the entire group of Palestinians into Israel."
The IDF estimated as early as Saturday morning that Fatah members may attempt to escape Gaza in light of the renewed violence in the Strip. "Each Palestinian (who entered Israel) was searched, and those who were armed left their weapons on the Palestinian side of the security fence," the officer said.
Twenty-two of the Palestinians who entered Israel were injured during the clashes. Five of them were taken to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba for treatment. One of the Palestinians was reportedly in serious condition, while the other two sustained moderate and light wounds.
Ten more Palestinians were taken to the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon; one of them was listed in serious condition, and the rest suffered moderate and light wounds.