(photo credit: AP [file])
Seven gunmen were killed during clashes with the IDF in Gaza and the West Bank on Wednesday, as Israel continued providing humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip while evacuating wounded Palestinians and foreign nationals from the Erez Crossing.
A Givati Brigade soldier was moderately wounded in a gun battle early Wednesday morning with a group of gunmen affiliated with the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) near the Kissufim Crossing, once the main road into the Gush Katif settlement bloc evacuated in 2005.
A large infantry force, backed by tanks, entered Gaza late Tuesday night and took up positions near Kissufim, where Islamic Jihad terrorists infiltrated Israel and tried kidnapping a soldier last week. The Air Force bombed two Kassam launchers in the northern Gaza Strip after they were used to fire rockets into the western Negev.
Meanwhile in the West Bank, undercover troops shot and killed two Palestinian gunmen after an hour-long shootout in Kafr Dan, a village near Jenin. One of the dead was a local Islamic Jihad commander and the other a commander from a violent offshoot of Fatah.
Under orders from Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the IDF also continued Wednesday to evacuate wounded Palestinians from the Erez Crossing. Other sick Palestinians, including a teenager with leukemia, were also allowed to travel to Israeli hospitals. The IDF also facilitated the transfer of medical supplies - including 98,000 vaccines - as well truckloads of milk, meat and other foods to the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom Crossing.
Despite the IDF efforts to alleviate the shortage in food in Gaza, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian territories Kevin Kennedy issued a report Wednesday claiming that a humanitarian crisis would break out in Gaza within 2-4 weeks if Karni - the main cargo crossing with Israel - was not reopened.
Israeli defense officials rejected the criticism raised in the report and claimed that Karni was closed after forces loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas fled their positions at the crossing. The officials also noted that Kennedy's workers in Gaza all ran away from Gaza late last week and that there was currently no one from his office inside the PA territory and capable of coordinating with the IDF.
Also Wednesday, over 150 foreign nationals - mostly from Ukraine and Russia - were allowed to leave Gaza through the Erez Crossing. Israeli Defense officials said that the situation in Gaza was "calming down" and that Hamas was no longer targeting Fatah officials like they had violently done last week.
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