(photo credit: AP)
Soldiers uncovered a Palestinian tunnel Saturday morning while working on a concrete, anti-sniper barrier near the Erez Checkpoint, north of the Gaza Strip. The tunnel began only few dozen meters back, but its entrance was hidden from view by a garbage dump.
OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant praised the "determination" of his troops in preventing "a terrorist attack within Israel."
This was the first time since the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005 that Palestinian terrorists have tried to burrow underneath the border fence surrounding the Strip.
On December 7, 2004, an IDF unit killed four terrorists and lost a soldier of its own after uncovering a tunnel, starting in a chicken coup in northern Gaza and heading towards Israel.
In most other cases, however, tunnels have been used to smuggle arms from Egypt or have been employed in sapping operations - such as the December 2004 attack on an army post in Rafah, which left five Bedouin soldiers dead.
An IDF spokesman said that the Palestinian Authority had been warned twice about the recent tunneling efforts of terrorists but has done nothing about it.
Meanwhile, infiltration attempts continued throughout the weekend.
On Friday, a navy patrol shot two swimmers, killing one, believed to be carrying bags of weapons from Egypt to the Gaza Strip.
Military sources said that this is third time in the span of a month that Palestinians have tried to smuggle in weapons or try to launch attacks by
Last Saturday, the navy sank a Palestinian fishing boat, which crossed into
banned waters and then fired on the IDF ship.
In the West Bank, soldiers also clashed with Palestinians.
Friday night, paratroopers arrested five Hamas members in the West Bank city
of Nablus. In the course of the operation, soldiers came under fire twice
and had a bomb thrown at them, but there were no casualties.
Meitar, a special forces unit attached to the Artillery Corps, arrested a sixth Hamas suspect in Kfar Jaiyus, east of Qalqilya.
Before noon, a Nahal infantry unit was subject to a drive-by shooting near Kabatya, south of Jenin, while security forces operating west of the city
likewise came under attack. Later in the afternoon, the Nachson Battlion took fire near Anabta, east of Tulkarem.
No Israelis were killed or wounded in any of the incidents.
Saturday morning, two Israeli men made a quick escape from Bethlehem with the aid of Palestinian Authority police officers. By order of the IDF,
Israeli civilians are banned from traveling into Area A, but the two men did so anyway.
Palestinian cops rescued the pair after their car was stoned by locals.