Hamas Vows 'Harsh' Attacks on Israel, Says Previous Assaults Were 'Practice'

Hamas spokesman makes threats in paper linked to group; Israel to tighten controls at Gaza crossings.

A Hamas spokesman on Monday said that the Palestinian militant group will carry out harsher attacks on Israel-Gaza border crossings - worse than recent ones that killed five Israelis.

The spokesman, Abu Jandal, also said that previous attacks on crossings between the coastal strip and Israel were just practice. Jandal made the comments speaking to a newspaper linked to the group.

Two Israeli civilians and three soldiers have been killed in recent attacks.

Israel Defense Forces responses in Gaza have killed more than 20 Palestinians.

Abu Jandal described the recent attacks as a walk in the park and said upcoming attacks would be harsher.

The Hamas threats came as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Hamas would be prepared to live next to Israel in peace in the framework of a Palestinian state. Carter's comments were echoed by Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal.

Meanwhile, Israel is planning to tighten controls even further over goods allowed into the Gaza Strip, as a result of the Hamas attacks. Some of the crossings will remain shut today, and may remain so for several days.

On Saturday morning, the IDF foiled a Hamas attempt to carry out a combined "hit and grab" attack against the Kerem Shalom crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, aimed at killing and capturing soldiers. Three Hamas gunmen were killed, and 13 IDF soldiers were injured, none seriously.

The Kerem Shalom crossing, which is used to transfer humanitarian cargo into the Gaza Strip, is likely to remain closed today for an evaluation of the security arrangements.

Saturday night, there was still no decision on whether to open the Sufa crossing.

As for the crossing at Nahal Oz, where fuel is transferred to the Strip, last Thursday Palestinians fired at a fuel truck. Security sources told Haaretz last night that Dor Alon, the company operating the terminal, has let the army know that it intends to reevaluate its role in transfering fuel to the Palestinians in light of the dangers to its staff. Two weeks ago, two Israelis were murdered in a Palestinian attack at the terminal.

Dor Alon refused to confirm the information provided by the security sources.

Israeli political sources said Sunday that "Hamas is harming the civilians of the Gaza Strip." The same sources added that via Kerem Shalom about 200 truckloads of food and medicines per week are transfered to the Strip, in an effort to avoid a humanitarian crisis there.

"Once more Hamas has proved that it does not care about the civilians in the Strip and has targeted the crossing where humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians is delivered."

Despite the attack Major General Yoav Galant, GOC Southern Command, said that Israel does not intend to embark on a large ground operation in the Strip in the coming weeks.

Such an operation, Galant said, would mar the planned celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the state. However, senior IDF officers warned that "in spite the excellent work of the ground forces, we are in a very unstable situation. We are expecting more attacks, but it would be difficult to counter them for long without suffering casualties."

The same senior officers added that the latest attempt was "a very clear declaration on the part of Hamas. This was not a 'slip.' This [attack] had been planned for months."

In spite of the attack, assessments in Israel are that Hamas would like to reach a lull in the fighting in the near future.