An attempt to kidnap an IDF soldier was thwarted and at least 10 Palestinians were killed Thursday during military operations in the Gaza Strip, as part of what the IDF said was Israel's continuous effort to curb Gaza terror and Kassam rocket fire into Sderot.
In the afternoon, IAF aircraft fired missiles at two cars driving towards the Kissufim Crossing in the central Gaza Strip. Palestinian operatives said that their fighters in a jeep and pickup truck had broken through the barrier and that fierce clashes with IDF troops ensued. The IDF denied the reports and claimed that a terrorist infiltration, aimed at kidnapping a soldier, had been thwarted.
At least six gunmen were killed in the air strike, which took place near Golani and Engineering Corps forces that were operating in the area to uncover terror tunnels and weapon caches. Col. Shlomi Dahan said that the six Palestinians killed were carrying machine guns, grenades and some of them even suicide bomb belts.
"This was an attack with the goal of kidnapping a soldier," Dahan said.
On Wednesday, the security cabinet held back from ordering a large-scale operation into Gaza despite the recent escalation in rocket fire on Sderot. Nonetheless, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that such an operation might be inevitable.
Officials in the Prime Minister's Office described Thursday's incident in Gaza as an "operational success which is very important in fighting against those who launch, send and supply the rockets."
While the IDF has standing orders to act against those involved in the firing of Kassam launchers, government officials said the IDF now has a bit more leeway than in the past.
Officials in the Prime Minister's Office, meanwhile, said Israel was not concerned that these types of incidents would complicate diplomatic efforts under way with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas are scheduled to meet early next week.
"We have never seen the PA as being in favor of the Kassam rocket fire from Gaza, and they have said that they are opposed to it. We see eye-to-eye on that," an official in the Prime Minister's Office said.
Earlier Thursday, four Hamas gunmen were killed and 12 others were wounded as IDF troops backed by tanks and bulldozers crossed into southern Gaza to hunt down terror suspects and Kassam manufacturing plants.
Hamas officials said their gunmen were targeted by Israeli tanks and missiles from the air. Dr. Muawiya Hassanin of the Palestinian Health Ministry reported shrapnel wounds in the casualties which he said were consistent with heavy artillery fire.
During the day, two Kassam rockets struck Israel, one next to an empty school in Sderot. Trucks meanwhile unloaded portable concrete bomb shelters throughout Sderot for use by residents caught in the open during a Kassam attack.
In the West Bank, IDF troops from the elite Duvdevan unit nabbed a top Islamic Jihad operative whose car was loaded with 60 explosive devices. The terrorist was armed with a rifle and two explosives devices wrapped in a vest he was wearing.
During the arrest, a group of Palestinians at the scene hurled two homemade bombs at the troops. The soldiers returned fire and eight-year-old Mustafa Abu-Sror was hit in the head by a rubber bullet. He was treated at the scene by an IDF doctor and was later evacuated by a military helicopter to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.
The IDF expressed its regret for the incident and civil administration officials said they planned to contact the boy's family and arrange entry permits into Israel for them so they could visit the wounded child.