Palestinians sources told Ynet on Friday that the fire exchange that left two IDF soldiers dead in the Gaza Strip was a planned ambush. Abu Obeida, spokesman for Hamas' Izz a-din al-Qassam Bridges, said at a press conference, "The organization's interception and observation unit identified an Israeli force advancing into the Palestinian territory and confronted it by directly striking its men."
Abu Obeida added, "The purpose of this act was to prove to the Israelis that the repeated violations of the borderline will not be tolerated. The Israelis wanted to send us a message, and we responded to them appropriately."
Meanwhile, Southern Command Chief Major-General Yoav Galant said on Friday, "The soldiers advanced in a proper operational manner and when the terrorists were seen moving westward, tanks that were stationed undercover opened fire. One of the terrorists approached the forces point blank and opened fire. In the clashes, one of the fighters was apparently hit by the grenade that was on his person, and as a result the explosion that killed him and injured two other soldiers took place. Another fighter was killed in another fire exchange in the area. In total, two fighters were killed."
Hamas me recounting incident (Photo: Reuters)
Galant added, "The terrorists were hit, two were killed. In another incident which took place two hours later north of there two other terrorists trying to pant bombs at the fence were killed. These are events that take place every day. The soldiers' activity is meant to protect the civilians of the nearby communities. Operations are carried out on both sides of the fence, by foot, with tanks, in covert and open activity.
"Unfortunately, we paid a very hefty price this Shabbat eve and on the even of the holiday. Shabbat Shalom, happy holiday. We support the families and express our deep sorrow over the incident. We will continue to work to enable all of the State of Israel's citizens to celebrate the Seder fittingly."
Gaza preparing for escalation
Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza are preparing for a difficult night following the clashes with the IDF. Ynet has learned that Hamas officials have already gone underground for fear of an Israeli response, and that Israel Air Force jets are circling the Strip's skies.
A number of Palestinian organizations claimed responsibility for the incident Friday, starting with Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. This comes as a rare move, since Hamas officials have recently spoken out against rocket attacks on Israel, and the movement's Mahmoud al-Zahar even claimed that they were serving foreign interests.
Meanwhile, a new al-Qaeda-affiliated organization by the name of Taliban Falasteen said it was behind the incident as its first act in the Strip. Later, the Islamic Jihad's military wing the al-Quds Brigades also claimed responsibility for the incident.
Hamas elements used the opportunity to restore some of their dignity, which was lost as Fatah officials and media criticized the movement in recent days for turning its men into a "force that protects Israel's southern border."
Hamas television which reported that the organization claimed responsibility for the attack said Friday's action "is proof to all those that mocked Hamas and its abilities."
Hamas sources adamantly rejected claims that the incident was meant to sabotage the Obama administration's attempts to renew peace talked between Israel and the Palestinians.