2 Killed in Terror Attack on Gaza Crossing; Karni Fuel Depot Was Unguarded

The fuel depot at Nahal Oz, near the Karni crossing, the site of yesterday's terrorist attack in which two Israeli civilians were killed, did not have guards, despite its proximity to the Gaza border and the presence there of civilians.

The IDF only had troops along the border fence, who failed to prevent the terrorists' infiltration.

IDF sources said that Dor Alon, the company that operates the terminal, probably didn't post guards at the site to save money, even though the IDF had demanded it.

The sources said other companies operating border crossings to the Gaza Strip all employed security guards. In response, Dor Alon said it had never been asked to post guards at the depot and that the IDF is responsible for the crossing.

The victims were identified as Be'er Sheva residents Oleg Lipson, 37, and Lev Cherniak, 53. Two other civilians were injured in the attack.

Two of the four Palestinian terrorists were killed in an exchange of fire with IDF troops immediately after the attack.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, along with a group linked to the Al-Aqsa Brigades. A spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees said that members of three groups, not including Hamas, infiltrated the crossing.

Israel does not intend to make significant changes in its policy in the Gaza Strip at this point. Security sources said that the IDF's offensive in the Strip may escalate a little but so far no decision on a larger ground operation has been made.

The activity at the fuel terminal was halted yesterday, but security sources said Israel had not decided to stop the fuel supply to Gaza completely and would probably resume the supply in a few days.

Israel will launch a diplomatic offensive with the United Nations and international aid organizations to emphasize that Hamas is responsible for the cross-border raid and the consequent humanitarian crisis in Gaza. However, officials admit that with Libya on the Security Council it would be difficult to achieve anything.

Diplomatic campaign

Israel sent letters of complaint to the UN secretary general, Security Council and international aid organizations, accusing Palestinian terror organizations of attacking a humanitarian crossing, which is a lifeline for the Gaza Strip's population.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak yesterday blamed Hamas for the attack. "Hamas took part in planning and approving the attack and will pay dearly for it," he said. "Hamas is the ruling force in Gaza and, as far as Israel is concerned, it is responsible for the attack," he said in a conversation with visiting Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Israel also complained that in contrast to the UN and aid organizations, "Hamas does not care about Gaza's population." The attack proves that the terror organizations do not hesitate to attack the crossings "cynically and deliberately," Israel complained.

"Anyone with eyes in his head can see that the terrorists' aim is to kill as many Israelis as possible and undermine any display of coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians," an official Israeli statement said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said the raid would not affect peace talks, which resumed in earnest this week with a summit between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The two sides hope to reach a final peace deal by the end of the year.

"We decided that we will continue to talk and will not let terrorists have a veto voice on the talks with the pragmatic forces," Mekel said. Following the infiltration, IDF tanks and soldiers rushed to the scene, and killed two of the terrorists with tank fire. Two others managed to escape to the other side of the Gaza border, where a getaway car was waiting for them.

An IAF missile strike yesterday evening hit a car in the Sajaia neighborhood in Gaza, in which one of the terrorists who carried out the shooting attack was traveling, IDF sources said.

According to the sources, the terrorist and another man who was with him in the vehicle were killed in the strike.

Earlier, during the IDF forces' attempt to target the terrorists who carried out the attack and fled the scene, the Israel Air Force fired one missile at a Palestinian car in Gaza City's Zeitun neighborhood and another at a house in the area.

Four Palestinians were killed as a result of IDF missile fire. They were identified as A'ataf al-Arbali, a member of the "Mujahideen Brigade," his brother Ahmed al-Arbali, Mazen Abu Kamiz and Muhammed Abu Jabeh.

Maj. Tal Levram, an IDF spokesman, said the militants fired a series of mortar shells before the infiltration to divert Israel's attention. The mortar attacks continued afterward, and one landed by Levram as he described the attack.

Levram said the army believes the militants were planning to stage an attack on a kibbutz or to kidnap a soldier, but were thwarted by the army's quick response.

"It could have been much much worse," the officer said.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who met Tusk in Jerusalem, briefed him on the attack and said "the Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip is a problem for the whole area."

She said "Hamas rules Gaza and can prevent every terror act from it. Israel sees it as being responsible for every terror attack, with all that this implies."