Hamas Attack Injures 13 Soldiers

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CBNNews.com - KEREM SHALOM, Israel - A large-scale Palestinian terror attack Saturday at the Kerem Shalom border crossing with the Gaza Strip injured 13 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers.

An armored vehicle, supplied to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the 1990s, rammed the fence at the border crossing, paving the way for two booby-trapped vehicles, disguised as IDF jeeps, to breach the security fence.

Moments before, when the deputy commander of the Desert Patrol Battalion was unable to make radio contact with the approaching vehicles, he called out a warning. Many of his soldiers were able to take cover before the first bomb-laden vehicle exploded.

"One of the jeeps neared the post occupied by soldiers and exploded nearby it," Major Wahid said in a debriefing following the attack.

"The soldiers only suffered light injuries. The second jeep neared the assistant battalion commander's force, but just then the warning came and the soldiers were saved," he said.

The second bomb-laden vehicle blew up near a watchtower, causing heavy damage to the structure, but no injuries to the soldiers inside.

Two Hamas gunmen were killed in the attacks.

North of Kerem Shalom, an armored vehicle approached the Kissufim crossing. Before it could get close enough to detonate its payload, an IDF tank from Brigade 401 scored a direct hit.

Residents of surrounding Israeli communities were told to stay inside while IDF troops made sure no terrorists managed to infiltrate.

Six of the 13 wounded soldiers remain hospitalized at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba. One soldier is still in intensive care.

Meanwhile in southern Gaza, an IDF air strike targeted another suspected booby-trapped jeep between Kerem Shalom and the Rafah border crossing.

IDF officials said the carefully planned attacks aimed at killing a maximum number of soldiers and kidnapping others.

"This was a series of attacks aimed at killing and kidnapping soldiers," said Major General Yoav Galant, head of the IDF's Southern Command. "This is an attack the likes of which we have not seen since the [August 2005] disengagement [from the Gush Katif Settlement Bloc in the Gaza Strip]," he said.

"This is an escalation that could be dangerous if we do not stop it," another senior IDF official told Israel's Channel 10 news. "In this case, the incident ended with a relatively low number of casualties, compared to what planned, but it should raise a red flag over our operations in the area," he said.

In response to the attacks, the IDF closed the Kerem Shalom crossing to repair the border fence and re-evaluate the security arrangements. It is expected to remain closed for at least two days.

"Hamas is harming the civilians of the Gaza Strip," said one senior Israeli official. Some 200 truckloads of food and medicine are transferred to the Gaza Strip every week through the Kerem Shalom crossing.

"Once more, Hamas has proven that it does not care about the civilians in the Strip and has targeted the crossing where humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians is delivered," he said, adding that the attack "had been planned for months."

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz

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