The army killed at least one terrorist and wounded others involved in the combined assault of two suicide bombers and terrorist gunmen who are associated with the ruling Palestinian Authority Fatah party and Hamas.
The injured soldiers, including seven in serious or critical condition, were rushed by helicopter and ambulances to the nearby Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva. Constant Arab gunfire delayed rescued personnel in evacuating the wounded soldiers. They found one soldier in serious condition after being trapped for two hours in the exploded tunnel.
Terrorists blew up more than one ton of explosives in a quarter-mile long tunnel near a check post where Arabs pass from Gaza to Egypt. The blast occurred around 5:30 p.m., when the passage is closed, and apparently was timed to prevent injuries to Arabs. Terrorists followed the bomb blast with gunfire and mortar shelling and then detonated another bomb which destroyed an IDF post. Hamas terrorists and the Fatah Hawks, a military youth wing of the ruling Fatah party of Abu Mazen, claimed they were behind the well-planned assault, which they warned will be followed by others.
Arabs also continued to fire Kassam rockets and mortar shells on Jewish communities in Gush Katif, less than three miles from the tunnel blast, and on northern Gaza Jewish communities, three miles south of Kibbutz Yad Mordechai. No one was reported injured, but a community clubhouse suffered heavy damage. No one was inside when the shell struck. Four people at the Gush Katif town of Neve Dekalim were rushed to Soroka Hospital Friday afternoon after being struck by mortar shells. At least two are in serious but stable condition.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and defense officials recently have stated that the IDF is beginning to coordinate with PA security forces in an effort to “test” the PA’s ability to control terror. Sharon also has declared that he will not allow his expulsion plan to take place under fire.
Shortly after Sunday’s assault, Gaza Arabs celebrated in the streets, similar to reactions following dozens of terrorist attacks in the past.