Peretz: IDF Kissufim op 'wasn't perfect'

Troops foil kidnap attempt but three out of four gunmen escape back into Gaza.

terrorists in TV van 298 (photo credit: AP)
terrorists in TV van 298
(photo credit: AP)
"The IDF operation was good but it wasn't perfect," Defense Minster Amir Peretz told Army Radio Sunday in response to the previous day's foiled kidnapping attempt near Kissufim in which a Palestinian gunmen was killed but three escaped back into the Gaza Strip. The IDF had claimed that the reason the three had managed to flee was because the troops were first concentrating on securing the surrounding neighborhoods from the threat of infiltration by one of the operatives. "I am glad that the soldiers were first looking to protect the neighborhoods, it was the correct decision," said the defense minister, praising the soldiers strength and determination. Peretz said the operation would be examined, specifically the possible need for more troops in the area but stressed that although the operation wasn't perfect the IDF was "always improving its methods." Saturday's attack, which occurred just two weeks before the one-year anniversary of Cpl. Gilad Schalit's abduction, was perpetrated when a terror cell - made up of two Islamic Jihad and two Aksa Martyrs Brigades operatives - infiltrated into Israel from the Gaza Strip and broke into an empty military outpost. The soldiers had spotted a suspicious car with the letters TV taped on it, traveling near the Kissufim Crossing, Israel's main gateway into Gaza prior to disengagement in 2005. The car attracted attention since journalists do not usually drive so close to the security fence, and a military unit was immediately dispatched to the scene. While the soldiers continued to track the car, four Islamic Jihad terrorists quickly appeared and blew a hole in the security fence, running through and straight to a nearby vacant IDF outpost. Givati Brigade infantrymen quickly arrived and a gun battle ensued. IDF sources said the attack was probably designed to kidnap a soldier. Schalit was abducted on June 25, 2006, during a cross-border attack near Kerem Shalom, some 20 kilometers south of Saturday's shootout. Abu Ahmed, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, confirmed that four gunmen broke through the Gaza border fence and attacked soldiers. He said three of them returned to Gaza unharmed, but that Muhammad Jaabari, 19, was killed. Abu Ahmed said the raiders meant to snatch a soldier but the attempt was foiled when IAF helicopters arrived. "The aim of the operation was to withdraw with the soldier a captive," he said, "But the participation of Israeli helicopters prevented that." IDF officers said the Southern Command's high level of alert along the border was responsible for thwarting the attack. "Proper readiness on the part of the forces of the Gaza Division and the correct actions in the field prevented an attack, apparently a kidnap [attempt]," said OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant. Also on Saturday, near Khan Yunis, infantry from the Givati Brigade, along with tanks and armored personnel carriers, were operating two kilometers inside the southern Gaza Strip. The troops entered Gaza early in the morning and killed an armed Palestinian in a gun fight near the security fence. The operation, according to the IDF, was designed to gather intelligence and to uncover weapons caches and terror tunnels. On Friday night, IDF troops shot and killed an armed Palestinian near Hebron, Palestinian sources reported. Paratroopers operating in Taffuh spotted a group of suspects conducting target practice. The soldiers opened fire, wounding two of the men. Yusuf Yusuf Abed a-Nabi Zarikat was seriously wounded and evacuated to a hospital. The second man, Hajazi Muhammad Zarikat, died of his wounds. Meanwhile, a Palestinian driver ran over a soldier at a checkpoint near Fawar, south of Hebron, lightly injuring him. The driver disappeared and the army was searching for him. Earlier Friday, an Islamic Jihad gunman died hours after he was wounded in a skirmish with IDF troops in the Gaza Strip. He had opened fire on the soldiers together with a second gunman, who managed to escape. AP contributed to the report.