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Hamas showed its true colors on Monday, just two days after establishing a unity government, by taking credit for a terrorist attack at the Karni crossing, and attempting to smuggle a suicide bomber across from the Egyptian border, senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office said Monday night.
"The direct result of a government like the new Palestinian government that openly supports terrorism - a government that sadly now is also made up of Fatah - is a terrorist attack against Israel openly claimed by Hamas terrorists," one official said. "We hope the international community will mark both the words and the overt actions of this new Hamas-led government."
Hamas took responsibility for a rare sniper attack along the Gaza security fence on Monday. And in Egypt, authorities said they apprehended a Hamas suicide bomber who was on his way to an attack inside Israel.
On Monday morning a Palestinian sniper in the Gaza Strip shot and wounded an Israel Electric Corporation employee working next to the Karni Crossing. The 42-year-old worker - Kobi Ohayun - was moderately wounded and was evacuated to Beersheba's Soroka Hospital.
Immediately following the shooting, the IDF deployed troops along the Gaza security fence in an effort to locate the sniper. Ohayun was working in an area near the Karni Crossing together with eight other Israel Electric employees and was laying infrastructure for high-voltage electrical poles. Southern Command sources said Oahyun had not coordinated the work he was doing with the IDF.
While noting that sniper fire at civilians along the Gaza Strip security fence was rare, security officials said they were not surprised by the attack. On Sunday, five Kassam rockets were fired at the western Negev from the Gaza Strip.
"There is high motivation among terror groups in Gaza, including Hamas, to perpetrate attacks against Israel," explained one source. "This is just one manifestation of that motivation." The officials noted that since the cease-fire in Gaza went into effect in November, over 40 explosive devices have been uncovered by the IDF along the Gaza fence.
Meanwhile Monday, Egyptian authorities announced that they had detained a Hamas suicide bomber who was on his way to carry out an attack inside Israel. The man, Salah Adnan Saleh Abdel-Salam, 21, was arrested after he left a mosque in the border city of El-Arish in the Sinai Peninsula, police said.
An Egyptian official, Capt. Muhammad Badr of the North Sinai Peninsula police unit, said the man had confessed to belonging to Hamas and to planning a suicide attack in Israel. Last month, a suicide bomber infiltrated into Israel from Egypt and killed three people in a suicide attack in an Eilat bakery.
Abdel-Salam was a student at al-Azhar University's college of science and economy in the Gaza Strip, police said, before transferring last year to the same university in Cairo. An acquaintance tipped off authorities about his plans, police said.
Miri Eisin, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said she wasn't surprised that Hamas was trying to carry out attacks even as it was trying to convince the world to give it legitimacy.
"When Hamas says that they view all means of resistance as legitimate, they mean it," she said. "And when the PA openly endorses resistance as the only way to end occupation, no one should be surprised when Hamas's followers commit acts of terrorism."
In a related development, Eisin also responded to Syrian President Bashar Assad's interview in the Saudi newspaper Al Jazirah in which he said that the Olmert government was the weakest in Israel's history, and that he wasn't optimistic about peace talks between Israel and Syria.
"I find it very amusing that the tyrannical leader of Syria has any opinion about a democracy, because he doesn't know what it is," she said. "This government is built on a strong coalition, it has reached out in peace to all our neighbors and will continue to do so."
Assad, in an interview prior to the upcoming Arab League summit in Riyadh, said a slew of European, American and Arab envoys had come to Syria in an attempt to mediate between Israel and Damascus, but that no serious contacts had taken place.
Nonetheless, Assad said, "You can't completely lose hope for peace. Otherwise, you have to go the way of war, whether you want to or not."
Eisin responded by reiterating for months what Jerusalem has been saying regarding Assad's various overtures - that he was not interested in peace, only the peace process to get Syrian out of its international isolation.
"As Syria harbors the terrorist Khaled Mashaal, openly supports sending weapons to Hizbullah, and is in a strategic alliance with Iran, there is no question what that government stands for," Eisin said.
AP contributed to this report.