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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Only a matter of time: IDF foils kidnap attempt near Kissufim

Only a matter of time?  

IDF foils kidnap attempt near Kissufim


Two weeks before the one-year anniversary of Cpl. Gilad Schalit's abduction, an Islamic Jihad terror cell infiltrated into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Saturday and broke into an empty military outpost with the goal of capturing a soldier.

The IDF thwarted the kidnap attempt - the first successful infiltration into Israel since Hamas terrorists tunneled under the border to kidnap Schalit - and killed one of the gunmen. The three others escaped to Gaza.

The soldiers spotted a suspicious car with the letters TV taped on it, traveling near the Kissufim Crossing, Israel's main gateway into Gaza prior to disengagement in 2005.

The car attracted attention since journalists do not usually drive so close to the security fence, and a military unit was immediately dispatched to the scene.

While the soldiers continued to track the car, four Islamic Jihad terrorists quickly appeared and blew a hole in the security fence, running through and straight to a nearby vacant IDF outpost.

Givati Brigade infantrymen quickly arrived and a gun battle ensued.

IDF sources said the attack was probably designed to kidnap a soldier.

Schalit was abducted on June 25, 2006, during a cross-border attack near Kerem Shalom, some 20 kilometers south of Saturday's shootout.

Abu Ahmed, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, confirmed that four gunmen broke through the Gaza border fence and attacked soldiers. He said three of them returned to Gaza unharmed, but that Muhammad Jaabari, 19, was killed.

Abu Ahmed said the raiders meant to snatch a soldier but the attempt was foiled when IAF helicopters arrived.

"The aim of the operation was to withdraw with the soldier a captive," he said, "But the participation of Israeli helicopters prevented that."

IDF officers said the Southern Command's high level of alert along the border was responsible for thwarting the attack.

"Proper readiness on the part of the forces of the Gaza Division and the correct actions in the field prevented an attack, apparently a kidnap [attempt]," said OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant.

Also on Saturday, near Khan Yunis, infantry from the Givati Brigade, along with tanks and armored personnel carriers, were operating two kilometers inside the southern Gaza Strip.

The troops entered Gaza early in the morning and killed an armed Palestinian in a gun fight near the security fence.

The operation, according to the IDF, was designed to gather intelligence and to uncover weapons caches and terror tunnels.

On Friday night, IDF troops shot and killed an armed Palestinian near Hebron, Palestinian sources reported.

Paratroopers operating in Taffuh spotted a group of suspects conducting target practice. The soldiers opened fire, wounding two of the men.

Yusuf Yusuf Abed a-Nabi Zarikat was seriously wounded and evacuated to a hospital. The second man, Hajazi Muhammad Zarikat, died of his wounds.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian driver ran over a soldier at a checkpoint near Fawar, south of Hebron, lightly injuring him.

The driver disappeared and the army was searching for him.

Earlier Friday, an Islamic Jihad gunman died hours after he was wounded in a skirmish with IDF troops in the Gaza Strip. He had opened fire on the soldiers together with a second gunman, who managed to escape.

AP contributed to the report.-

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