Israel Defense Forces soldiers early Monday killed at least four Palestinian militants who were trying to cross into Israel from the Gaza Strip.
An IDF source said that the group was planning to launch an attack on an Israeli community bordering the Strip. The defense establishment said later that the militants also planned to abduct IDF soldiers once inside Israel.
View Location of thwarted attack - June 8, 2009 in a larger map
At least ten militants - some on horseback - opened fire on an IDF patrol on the Israeli side of the fence, which returned fire. There were no injuries reported among the IDF troops.
Residents said the Palestinian militants fired anti-tank weapons and set off explosives against the patrol.
"Those martyrs and this blood will not break the will of the Palestinian people," said Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas's leader in the Gaza Strip. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
No group took initial responsibility for the attack, the first of its kind to reportedly involve horses. Israel closed the crossings into Gaza following the attempted attack.
The incident is one of the bloodiest clashes between Gaza militants and IDF troops since Operation Cast Lead against Hamas almost five months ago.
Gaza blockade talks
Israeli security officials were expected to meet this week to discuss easing the blockade of the Gaza Strip, following U.S. President Barack Obama's recent criticism of the "continuing humanitarian crisis" there.
So far, Israel has made do with weak promises to reconsider its policy, but Obama's Cairo speech Thursday - in which he said the blockade devastates Palestinian families and does not serve Israel's security interests - may push Jerusalem to take action.
The Defense Ministry department responsible for coordinating government activities in the territories began assessing the closure two weeks ago to determine whether to advocate any changes.
The top Israel Defense Forces officers involved in the assessment are due to explain their positions to Defense Minister Ehud Barak this week. The matter is slated to be discussed by the cabinet at a later stage.
Although Israel has reduced the amount and type of goods entering Gaza, Palestinians are still receiving medicine and medical equipment, gas and food. However, Israel still bans "dual-use" goods - those it classifies as potentially enabling terror activities - such as construction materials.
Some 100 trucks bearing goods such as medicine and food enter Gaza daily, down from about 130 during the second half of 2008, when Hamas' declared lull in violence was in effect. But Human Rights Watch, one of several aid groups urging eased restrictions, says the current number remains far below the 475 trucks that entered Gaza daily prior to Hamas' takeover in June 2007.
Specifically, the trucks contain medication and medical equipment as well as non-luxury food items, including meat, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, and humanitarian aid. Just Sunday, 75 trucks entered Gaza through the Kerem Shalom border crossing, some 420,000 tons of diesel fuel were brought to the Gaza power station and 75 tons of cooking gas entered the Strip through the Nahal Oz crossing.
At the Erez crossing, an American-Israeli feminist delegation and left-wing activists dressed like clowns held a rally Sunday to protest the ban on toys entering Gaza.
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