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The forces loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas fought well in the battle against Hamas men near the Karni crossing on Tuesday, contrary to reports in the Israeli media, said Western diplomatic sources familiar with the PA.

The diplomats emphasized the courage and resolution demonstrated by Abbas' loyalists, who were surprised by a larger Hamas force, yet succeeded in thwarting the attack.

They said two different forces of Abbas loyalists had cooperated to ward off the attack, despite heavy losses.

The diplomats' inquiry shows that Hamas launched a surprise offensive on the Palestinian Presidential Guard positioned in a small base near the Karni crossing. The Presidential Guard consisted of new recruits and youngsters just out of training. The Hamas fighters outnumbered them, were more experienced and were armed with RPG rocket launchers and vehicles.

At 3 A.M. Hamas attacked the base and moved froward. The commander of the Presidential Guard was out of the Gaza Strip, but the chain of command worked well, and the attacked unit asked the Palestinian National Security branch in the area for assistance.

The National Security troops encountered Hamas resistance and sustained considerable losses, but continued pressing forward until they joined up with the Presidential Guard.

The commander of the National Security battalion, who approached the border fence, was shot dead by the Israel Defense Forces, but his deputy took over the command. The joint Presidential Guard and National Security force organized themselves, launched a counterattack and reconquered the base from Hamas.

"The soldiers did as they had been trained and overcame a larger, better-equipped force, although they were from two different units, and despite the fact that the commander of one unit had been killed, and the commander of the other was not in the area," a Western diplomat said.