Aides to Sharon: Israeli Military Response to Hamas Operation in Gaza Expected Soon

Published January 9th, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

Four Israeli soldiers and two Palestinian gunmen were killed early Wednesday morning in a fire battle that began following a Palestinian attack on an Israeli post. 

 

The two Palestinians crossed the Gaza border fence and attacked an Israeli military outpost on the Israeli side of the border, known as the "Africa" outpost, near the Israeli settlement Kerem Shalom.  

 

The four soldiers killed in the pre-dawn attack were from a Bedouin Israeli Army Unit. Two soldiers were also injured, one seriously and the other lightly, and were evacuated to a Hospital in southern Israel. All were members of the Bedouin unit.  

 

The Islamic Resistance Movement – Hamas - claimed responsibility for the attack.  

 

The two Palestinians were identified as Mohammed Abu Jamus, 23, a member of the Palestinian Navy and Imad Abu Rizak, 25, who was identified as a member of Hamas, both residents of the Gaza Strip city of Khan Yunis. Unconfirmed reports said Rizak is a member of the Palestinian naval police, however, the Palestinian police denied that any of its officers were involved in the incident.  

 

The two Palestinian fighters cut through the border fence at 4:30 A.M. (local time) and opened fire on the Israeli post, surprising the troops manning the position.  

 

An Israeli army patrol that was in the area arrived at the scene and in the gun battle, which followed, one of the Palestinians was killed. The second Palestinian managed to escape and was later killed after the troops chased after him.  

 

According to Israeli Army Major General Doron Almog, the Army’s chief commander in the Gaza Strip, the two Palestinians were aided by six others who accompanied them to the fence. The six stayed on the Gaza side of the border fence after the others cut through the fence in order to cross over into Israel.  

 

Almog told reporters that the Palestinians were dressed in Palestinian Authority police uniforms. He said that despite the cease-fire, the Palestinians intended to continue attacks on settlements and military positions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  

 

Later in the day, Palestinian media reports conveyed that a sizable Israeli army force, including tanks, armored personnel carriers and a large infantry force has entered Palestinian controlled territory near the Dahania airport in the southern Gaza Strip.  

 

Israeli Response 

 

As the Israeli security cabinet met Wednesday to discuss Israel's response to what a government official called a "murderous attack” by Palestinian “gunmen”, aides to Israeli Prime Minister Sharon were quoted as saying "an Israeli response is to be expected."  

 

"We do not know of a planned military response, but we are speaking of grave diplomatic consequences," Israeli Army Radio quoted an official in the Prime Minister's Office as commenting. 

 

"If there had been talk of seven days of quiet, the seven days of quiet are null and void. As for everyone that perhaps had deluded themselves that these were days of quiet, Arafat has come forward to once again prove that there are no days of quiet. As a result, there will be grave consequences for the diplomatic process."  

 

Palestinian Response 

 

The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday condemned the attack. In a statement given, the Authority said it feared the raid, in which two Palestinians were killed, would give Sharon "an excuse to continue his military escalation and siege against our people". 

 

"The Palestinian leadership totally condemns this attack against the Israeli position... and decided to set up an investigative committee of Palestinian security agencies to discover who is behind it," it said.  

 

Meanwhile, as the Israeli security cabinet discussed Israel's response to the unfolding events, Palestinian forces fled command centers in the territories for fear of military reprisals. 

 

The latest violence came as tensions mounted in the region over last Thursday’s seizure by Israel of a ship carrying 50 tons of weapons. Israeli forces intercepted “Karine-A” last Thursday in the Red Sea about 300 miles south of the Israeli port of Eilat.  

 

The U.S. State Department said it believed there is a Palestinian connection to the arms shipment, but reserved judgment on whether Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat or the Palestinian Authority were directly involved.  

 

The Bush administration expects to hear further details on the Israeli investigation of the arms shipment on Wednesday during talks in Washington with senior Israeli intelligence officials. (Albawaba.com) 

© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)


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