Mortar shells hit Gaza enclave despite heavy PA deployment
Halutz hints Palestinian fire may cause halt in pullout; PA deploys 7,500 police on outskirts of settlements.
Despite the deployment of thousands of Palestinian police in an effort to prevent terror attacks during the disengagement, Palestinians fired two mortar shells at the central Gaza settlement of Gadid in the pre-dawn hours on Monday, Israel Radio said.
The shells landed within the enclave, but there were no reports of casualties.
The blasts were heard in the main settlement of Neveh Dekalim and residents there were told to take cover in shelters.
Some 7,500 Palestinian police were deployed on Sunday near settlements in the Gaza Strip. Some Palestinian forces were to be positioned as close as 150 meters from some settlements.
Prior to the mortar attack, the Palestinian deployment was temporarily halted after a Palestinian gunman fired at a tent of anti-pullout protesters in the Kfar Darom settlement.
Israel Defense Forces soldiers fired back at the gunmen. There were no casualties in the Kfar Darom incident.
IDF hints attacks could freeze pullout As the Palestinian police took up positions Sunday, IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz hinted that the Gaza pullout might have to be interrupted if Israeli troops come under Palestinian fire.
Hours earlier, Palestinian gunmen had opened fire on the isolated Gaza settlement of Kfar Darom. An IDF tank crew, responding to the pre-dawn attack, inadvertently shelled an Israeli armored personnel carrier, seriously wounding an army officer and injuring four other soldiers.
Israeli settlers and rightists said the incident showed that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was reneging on repeated pledges that there would be no "evacuation under fire."
The Palestinian forces began to deploy, following talks between senior IDF officers and PA security officials. The Palestinian police were put in place to create a protective cordon to prevent terror attacks during the pullout and stop Palestinians from rushing into vacated settlements to seize property.
The Israelis and Palestinians also set up a joint operations center on the Gaza border to help them respond rapidly to any violence.
In a guarded statement, Halutz said that if IDF troops are targeted by armed Palestinians, "I do not plan to continue the process with the same intensity, without stopping to see if the fire is of a kind that we have to deal with immediately."
Militant groups in Gaza claim credit for the Israeli withdrawal, saying their attacks over nearly 5 years of violence drove Israel out. Israel has said it would take harsh action in areas near the settlements if soldiers and settlers are attacked during the pullout.
IDF to probe 'friendly fire' incident IDF GOC Southern Command chief Gen. Dan Harel called the mistaken Sunday tank fire "a very great failure."
The incident began when Palestinian gunmen in the town of Dir al-Balah opened fire at around 3 A.M. on Kfar Darom, where hundreds of opponents of the disengagement plan live in tents.
IDF troops arriving at the scene retaliated by firing two tank shells toward the presumed source of the gunfire.
One of the shells hit an APC carrying soldiers.
IDF troops on the scene believe that a gunman was wounded by the other shell.