According to the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson's Unit, a Navy force spotted a cell in the waters of the Nahal Aza area, near Gaza. The force opened fire at the cell and hit a number of gunmen wearing diving suits and armed with weapons. There were no injuries among the soldiers.
The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Fatah's military wing, reported that four of the group's men were killed and that a fifth man, who was lightly injured, was missing.
Abu al-Walid Jaabri said that the gunmen were training near the Strip's coast when Navy rubber boats suddenly opened fire on them. He said the cell was not planning an attack.
Beach in Gaza after thwarted attack (Photo: AFP)
Eyewitnesses in central Gaza reported that the IDF fired shells towards the coast, where the five men were killed, and that helicopters were seen in the sky. The Palestinians said that the incident took place near the beach, not far from fishermen.
Shortly afterwards, Palestinians reported that the IDF attacked a rocket launching cell from the air in northern Gaza. One person was moderately injured. IDF officials confirmed the strike, saying that the cell included two Palestinians who were preparing to fire rockets.
Army receives early info
The cell's plan is still unclear, but according to estimates its members had been working on an attack from the sea for quite a while. According to security sources, the terror organizations in the Gaza Strip have been finding it difficult to carry out attacks on the border fence, and were therefore looking for different and creative ways to reach the Israeli home front.
Palestinian divers and swimmers have attempted to reach Israel through the sea in the past, but this time it seems the cell was well prepared and trained ahead of the operation. The gunmen were met by the Navy force following early information received by the IDF.
A number of explosive barrels sent from Gaza were found off the Ashkelon and Ashdod coasts several months ago. Some even reached the shores of Netanya, north of Tel Aviv.
Ali Waked contributed to this report