According to an initial Israeli army probe, Palestinian gunmen approached the fence with trucks and horses loaded with explosive devices. Four Palestinians were killed in an exchange of fire with Israel Defense Forces soldiers, and the rest escaped. There were no injuries among the troops. The IDF believes the gunmen had planned to kidnap a soldier.
Hamas refrained from condemning the attack in public, but sources in the Strip say that although the attack had been "required" in light of "the Israeli violations of the calm", it contradicted the Palestinian interest and the interest of the Strip's residents, and therefore Hamas seeks to call those responsible to order.
Hamas is interested in making it clear that any activity which may harm the lull in the Strip must be avoided, particularly in light of the increased global pressure on Israel to open the goods crossings and ease the siege imposed on the Strip, which was also expressed in US President Barack Obama's recent speech to the Muslim world in Cairo.
Sources in Gaza estimated that the attack was carried out by members of the "Army of Islam" organization, which is in a conflict with Hamas, in cooperation with individual elements affiliated with al-Qaeda. The organization, however, refrained from assuming responsibility for the attack so as not to be dragged into a direct conflict with Hamas. An unknown organization named "the army of Allah's supporters" claimed responsibility instead.
Scene of foiled attack (Photo: AP)
The sources stressed that Hamas supports the organizations and understands that they are entitled to respond when the Israeli side violates the truce, but when there is no immediate reason the organizations must "honor the interest of the Strip's residents, who need to see the blockade lifted, the crossings opened and the lull maintained."
'Forces' alertness stopped gunmen'An IDF investigation into Monday morning's incident revealed that about 10 to 12 gunmen took the booby-trapped horses off the truck they arrived with and began planting explosive devices near the fence. At this stage, they were spotted by an IDF force and began firing at soldiers from Golani's 13th Regiment.
The troops fired back, and the terrorists tried to escape and return the horses into the truck. At least four gunmen were killed in the battle. The force chose not to enter the Strip for fear of an abduction trap, and the army sent warplanes and tanks to the area instead.
"This was aimed at a much more extensive attack, rather than a specific one," said Lieutenant-Colonel Avinoam Stolovich, commander of Golani's 13th Regiment. "We caught them before the stage of preparing for the attack. The force's alertness and the response stopped the terrorists before they managed to reach this stage, and from the moment we disrupted the terrorists they mainly engaged in breaking off contact."
Hanan Greenberg contributed to this report