IDF kills 2 Gaza gunmen as alert reaches emergency level
Shoot-out at Gaza security fence kills one; PA claims second killed in IAF hit.
By YAAKOV KATZ
Two Palestinian terrorists spotted crawling near Gaza's Erez Crossing were shot and killed by IDF troops on Monday, as security forces deployed throughout the country to prevent terror groups from launching attacks which could influence the outcome of Tuesday's elections.
Officials raised the level of alert to a state of emergency, and 22,000 policemen, backing up thousands of IDF troops, were set to deploy throughout the country on Tuesday. They were to be deployed with an emphasis on guarding entrances to cities, major entertainment spots and the seam line with the West Bank. On Monday, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) recorded close to 90 terror threats.
In light of the increase in terror threats, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz decided Monday night to bolster the closure on the territories and to close all crossings into Israel from both the West Bank and Gaza. They are due to be reopened Wednesday.
Early Monday, IDF troops from the Givati Brigade's Shaked Battalion spotted a cell of three armed Palestinians crawling between bushes some 250 meters from the northern Gaza Strip security fence. Backed by tank fire and IAF missiles, the troops opened fire and killed two members of the cell. The third, the army said, was wounded but succeeded in fleeing the scene.
Deputy commander of the battalion Maj. Golan Wach said the army had spotted the same cell in the past trying to test the soldiers' alertness along the border. He said the decision to use tank and air fire in addition to the light weapons was part of a new tactic the army has implemented in countering terror attacks from its positions outside the Gaza Strip. The terrorists were identified as members of Islamic Jihad and the Aksa Martyrs' Brigades - the armed branch of the Fatah movement.
"We use a range of abilities these days to hit terrorists since we are on one side of the fence and they are on the other side," Wach explained. "This saves us the need to enter Gaza with ground forces."
Since the disengagement this past summer, Wach said, there has been a steady increase in the number of infiltration attempts and rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. Eighty-two terrorists have been killed in Gaza since the disengagement, he said.
Earlier in the day, the IAF fired two missiles at a car in Gaza City wounding two members of the Aksa Martyrs' Brigades. The army said that the two were on their way to fire Kassam rockets at Israel.
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