Barak: Hamas will pay for attack on Gaza border crossing
13 IDF soldiers wounded in Kerem Shalom attack meant to coincide with Passover; 4 militants killed.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak told senior officers at the Israel Defense Forces Gaza Division Saturday that Hamas will pay for the attack on the Kerem Shalom Crossing earlier in the day which left more than a dozen soldiers injured.
Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi visited the division and were briefed on the military's activity following the attack on the Gaza crossing earlier in the day.
Two explosive-laden vehicles disguised as military jeeps exploded at the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Israel-Gaza Strip border on Saturday morning, leaving 13 Israel Defense Forces soldiers hurt - one soldier sustained moderate to serious wounds, two were moderately hurt and the remaining 10 suffered minor wounds.
Eight soldiers were taken to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva and the rest were treated at the scene.
Hamas claimed responsibility for the incident, which the IDF called the militant group's most ambitious attempted attack on Israel since Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005. The goal of the attack appeared to be heavy IDF casualties and the abduction of a soldier.
An attempted attack on Kerem Shalom this past Thursday, according to IDF sources, was likely to have been an intelligence-gathering mission in preparation for Saturday's attack, which was planned to coincide with the Passover holiday that began Saturday.
Three cars, two of which were disguised as IDF vehicles, approached the Kerem Shalom crossing at roughly 6 A.M., under cover of dozens of mortar shells fired on the crossing and heavy fog. An armored vehicle managed to rip a hole through the crossing's fence, allowing the two other cars - both Jeeps - to enter the crossing.
Both Jeeps were detonated inside the crossing, one quite close to a group of soldiers. Four militants were killed - one in each of the explosions and two militants in the armored vehicle.
At roughly the same time, an IDF missile struck an armored vehicle approaching the Gaza border south of Kissufim. The vehicle was hit, resulting in a large explosion, suggesting a substantial quantity of explosives in the vehicle. It was not immediately clear how many Palestinian casualties were caused.
IDF sources suspect Hamas had planned a large-scale attack on several points on the Gaza border, and that the Kerem Shalom bomb and the second vehicle were synchronized.
The IDF said a suspicious vehicle was hit near Kerem Shalom. Witnesses say the target was a jeep parked near the Rafah crossing with Egypt.
The IDF sources said that the alertness of the soldiers stationed at Kerem Shalom prevented a much more violent incident, and maybe even an abduction attempt.
The crossing is used for agricultural produce and to send humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.
Immediately following the attack, the IDF instructed residents of nearby communities to stay in their homes as soldiers conducted searches on both sides of the Gaza border, fearing one or two militants had escaped the scene.
Palestinian residents near the Kerem Shalom crossing said they heard shooting from IDF tanks and helicopters in the area.
The crossing, which is usually staffed by the Airports Authority, had been closed ahead of the holiday, and was under guard by a private security firm.
Attempts at attacking the crossings along on the border were on the rise this week, as were threats by Palestinian militant groups to breach the border in protest of Israeli sanctions on the coastal territory.
The IDF on Thursday thwarted an attempted terror attack on Kerem Shalom. Gunmen opened fire on the Israeli side of the crossing, but a patrol of Givati Brigade soldiers located nearby fired back, killing one gunman and wounding another.
Also on Thursday, Palestinians fired on Israeli fuel trucks at the Nahal Oz terminal bringing kerosene to the Gaza Strip. No injuries or damage were reported. Two Israeli civilians were killed in a shooting attack at Nahal Oz last week.
In Gaza City, a Hamas leader, Sami Abu Zuhri, said Hamas would carry out more attacks on crossings to break the nearly yearlong blockade of the territory.
"These operations are the beginning of the explosions that Hamas has warned of," said Abu Zuhri. "If the parties don't intervene quickly to save Gaza and break the siege, what is coming will be greater."
Dozens of Hamas supporters later took part in anti-Israel demonstrations near the Erez and Karni crossings. No violence was reported.
Alongside the attacks, Hamas claims it's ready to reach a truce with Israel on the Gaza border, and Egypt has tried to broker such a deal. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has been meeting with Hamas leaders in recent days in the West Bank and Syria to hear from the militant group.