An IDF force opened fire at a large group of Palestinian gunmen early Monday morning, hitting and injuring at least four of them. The gunmen approached the Gaza border near the Karni fuel terminal close to Nahal Oz and shot at the troops, who responded with fire.
Attack helicopters and tanks were alerted to the scene to assist the troops on the ground. At some point mortar fire was launched from the Palestinian territory in order to help the terror cell escape, and several vehicles arrived at the scene to evacuate the gunmen. An IDF chopper struck the vehicles.
None of the soldiers was wounded. Palestinian sources reported that four gunmen have been killed and others have been wounded.
A source from the Gaza Strip said the gunmen killed were part of a cell of 10 suicide bombers.
The source said the cell did not belong to Hamas or the Islamic Jihad, but to the al-Qaeda-affilated Salafi stream.
Following the foiled attack the Karni crossing and the neighboring fuel terminal has been closed and the transfer of goods and fuel to the Strip has been halted. The issue will be reexamined later Monday.
Army sources believe that the cell was made up of at least 10 members, and also received backup from additional forces inside the Strip. The gunmen were apparently planning to launch a large-scale attack against the military forces or an Israeli community in the region.
Gaza Division officials said that the incident is the most complex with which the IDF has encountered since the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead. They noted that despite the relative calm in the area, Palestinian attempts to attack the forces were being recorded regularly, forcing alert level to remain high.
Ali Waked contributed to the report