A Hamas spokesperson said Thursday Israel was to blame for an escalation of violence between the Gaza Strip and the Jewish state, calling on Egypt and the United Nations to pressure Jerusalem to discontinue attacks in Gaza.

Earlier Thursday, the IDF thwarted an attack from the Sinai Peninsula after the Air Force bombed targets in the northern Gaza Strip, killing a number of senior terrorists involved in plotting attacks against Israel.

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Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum called the attack a crime.

"We hold the government of the Zionist occupation (Israel) fully responsible for this crime and for the new escalation," Barhoum said.

Barhoum called on Egypt and the United Nations to intervene immediately in order to put pressure on Israel to "stop attacks," according to pan-Arab news website Vision News.

He also blamed the United States for financial and militarily supporting what he called "the growing crimes of the 'occupation' against the Palestinian people."

Palestinians reported that two people were killed in the attack and at least two others injured.

The IDF said the cell that was targeted was planning to launch an attack against Israel from Egypt. One of the operatives. Sobhi Ismail Batash, a resident of Gaza City, was described as a senior operative in the al Aksa Martys Brigades and was involved in planning the attack. The IDF said that the terrorists were supposed to cross from Gaza in to Sinai, and then into Israel.

Over the past week the IDF has been on high alert along the border with Egypt amid concern that terrorists were plotting an attack similar to the one in August when Palestinian and Egyptian terrorists crossed into Israel and killed eight Israelis.

Batash, the IDF said, was involved in a 2007 attack when a suicide bomber crossed from Sinai into Eilat, blowing himself up and killing three Israelis. He was also involved in other attacks over the years that were thwarted.

Palestinian funeral for Essam Al-Batsh and Sobhi Al-Batsh

The killing of Batash marks the first time Israel targeted a specific individual it views as a terrorist leader since the IAF took out a Popular Resistance Committee (PRC) senior commander while he was riding his motorcycle in the Gaza Strip.

Samed Abdul Mu'ty Abed was killed during a spasm of violence that broke out between terrorists in Gaza and Israel after armed gunmen carried out a cross-border terrorist attack north of Eilat that claimed the lives of eight Israelis.

The PRC denied responsibility for that terror attack.

Former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter warned that Islamic Jihad may try to respond to the attack by firing upon Israel, Army Radio reported Thursday.

According to the report, Al-Aksa itself may be too small to respond forcefully on its own.


"We're talking about a central figure. I wouldn't be surprised if they will try to to fire on us, even if only to show symbolically that they haven't given up," Dichter said.

The defense establishment urged residents living in communities close to Gaza to stay indoors or near safe spaces Thursday night, on fears of retaliatory attacks from the Strip, Israel Radio reported.

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