An IDF patrol Tuesday afternoon killed three terrorists who were seen approaching the security fence on the border with Gaza, adjacent to the Israeli community of Netiv Ha'asara, located just north of the Hamas-controlled enclave. No injuries were reported among the troops.
The terrorists were trying to plant an explosive device along the fence when an IDF outpost identified them and dispatched soldiers from the Paratrooper Brigade's 101st Batallion to the scene.
The force crossed into Gaza and made its way toward the terrorists. An exchange of fire ensued, during which the terrorists succeeded in detonating a bomb near the soldiers and throwing a grenade in their direction.
The soldiers then opened fire on the terrorists and all three were killed. After the exchange of fire was over the soldiers began to inspect the area.
A few hours earlier Defense Minister Ehud Barak toured the area and spoke with soldiers belonging to the Paratrooper Brigade's 202nd Battalion, as well as troops belonging to the Armored Corps serving in the area.
A security hearing took place on the scene, with the participation of IDF Deputy Chief of Staff General Dan Harel, GOC Southern Command General Yoav Galant, and Gaza Division chief, Brigadier-General Eyal Eisenberg.
"The incident this evening demonstrates the tension in the Gaza Strip and the need to be prepared at all times, regardless of whether or not the region is headed towards escalation or a decrease in violence," a senior IDF official told Ynet.
'It's hard to live with such tension'
Military sources postulated that attempts to plant explosive devices near the security fence would increase in the near future, explaining that Hamas was interested in the renewal of the ceasefire agreement and would therefore attempt to gain leverage prior to negotiations.
"So aside from the rocket fire the organization will increase attempts to harm soldiers near the fence, acts regarded as 'fair' on its end and not enough to illicit a grave response from Israel," one source said. He added that a plan had been formulated in response to the rocket fire from Gaza, and that it would be implemented soon.
The border incident jolted the residents of Netiv Ha'asara, which has also been the target of numerous Qassam rocket attacks since Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza in the summer of 2006.
"It's frightening; imagine what could have happened had the terrorists been able to reach one of the homes here," Carmela Michaeli told Ynet.
"The atmosphere here is extremely tense; it's hard to live with such tension," she said. "We are holding all the Hanukkah parties as scheduled and taking the kids to the festivals, but the daily routine is somber."
Nitzan Benm-Shushan, also of Netiv Ha'asara, blamed Israel's leadership for the situation. "They are failing to comprehend that we cannot cede any more land or lift the blockade. If we do not show resolve or believe in the righteousness of our path – the Jews will be driven from this land in 50 years' time.
"I sleep with a rifle under my pillow and with my eyes half open," he added.
Ashkelon Beach Regional Council head Yair Farjoun said in response to the incident "we know exactly who we're dealing with; our enemy is the Hamas government, which will make every effort to disrupt our lives. They are not planning to sign any new ceasefire agreement."