Gaza fighters attack key Israeli crossing

Hamas fighters rammed a bomb-laden car into an Israeli border crossing on Saturday.

Gaza fighters attack key Israeli crossing

Hamas fighters rammed a bomb-laden car into an Israeli border crossing on Saturday, killing three of the fighters and wounding 13 Israeli soldiers, the Islamists group and the Israeli army said.

It was the third major attack in less than two weeks on Israeli border crossings used to transfer limited supplies of humanitarian goods and fuel to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, home to 1.5 million people.

Israel tightened its military and economic blockade of the coastal enclave after Hamas seized control in June from more secular Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas issued a statement saying Saturday's attack on the Kerem Shalom border crossing may be the trigger for a broader campaign to force open the Gaza Strip's borders.

Dozens of Hamas supporters later took part in anti-Israel demonstrations near the border crossings of Erez and Karni but no violence was reported.

Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said the attack on the crossing showed Hamas's "nihilistic agenda" and its "total and complete disregard for the welfare of the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip".

A spokesman for Hamas said one of the fighters was driving a car when he blew himself up inside the Kerem Shalom crossing, which lies at the border of Israel, southern Gaza and Egypt.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said two other gunmen, who were on foot, were also killed in the attack.

The spokeswoman said 13 soldiers had been wounded, two moderately and the rest lightly.

"The attacker approached the crossing through the heavy early morning mist. The bombing was probably intended as part of a wider attack," the army spokeswoman said.

She said the fighters may have been trying to abduct Israeli soldiers.


PRISONER SWAP?

In June 2006, Gaza fighters abducted an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, near the Kerem Shalom crossing. Hamas and other militant groups want to swap Shalit for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Israel uses the Kerem Shalom crossing point, along with three others, to transfer limited supplies of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and fuel to impoverished Gazans.

The army says Kerem Shalom has been a frequent target of shooting and mortar attacks, and that two Palestinian fighters were wounded on Thursday when they tried to infiltrate the crossing.

Violence along the Israel-Gaza border has increased in recent days.

Early on Saturday, the Israeli army killed one Hamas fighter near the border fence in central Gaza, the Islamist group said. The Israeli army confirmed that a fighter had been hit in an air strike near the border.

On Wednesday, 17 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including a Reuters cameraman, and three Israeli soldiers were killed in the bloodiest day in more than a month.

Two Israeli civilians were killed on April 9 in an attack by fighters on the Israeli border crossing at Nahal Oz, the only terminal for piping fuel to the Gaza Strip. Two Palestinian fighters and two civilians were also killed when Israeli troops responded.

Reuters
Last Mod: 19 Nisan 2008, 13:15
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