Written by IICC
A BRDM armored personnel carrier confiscated by Hamas from Abu Mazen's security forces and used in the attack at the Kerem Shalom Crossing (Photo courtesy of the IDF Spokesman, April 19).
Remains of the car bomb which blew up at the Kerem Shalom Crossing (Photo courtesy of the IDF Spokesman, April 19).
The locations of the two attacks
1. On the morning of April 19, Passover Eve , IDF forces operating in the Gaza Strip prevented a combined mass-casualty attack in the regions of the Kerem Shalom Crossing (the southern Gaza strip) and Kissufim. The attack began close to six in the morning when a barrage of mortar shells was fired at Kibbutz Kerem Shalom and light weapons were fired at IDF forces in the area.
2. Under cover of the fire and the fog on the ground, a BRDM armored personnel carrier broke through the crossing gate. Terrorist operatives drove two car bombs disguised as IDF jeeps in through the break. One jeep blew up close to the guard tower and the second approached the IDF soldiers nearby and blew up close to them.
3. The soldiers chased the APC, which hit a concrete wall several hundred meters inside Israeli territory. They killed the driver and the two terrorist operatives with him. The attack wounded 13 IDF soldiers, two moderately and the rest slightly. After the first explosion the soldiers protected themselves by getting into armored cars, which prevented far greater injuries.
4. A short time after the attack at Kerem Shalom another BRDM APC drove up to the Kissufim region (central Gaza Strip) and apparently also tried to break through the fence (perhaps as a diversionary tactic). An IDF tank fired at the APC, which was apparently loaded with explosives, and blew it up. Its driver was killed.
Events after the attack
5. During and after the attack there was massive rocket and mortar shell fire at western Negev towns and villages. There were 20 identified rocket hits , most of them around Sderot , and 20 mortar shells. On April 20, the day after the attack, Palestinian terrorists shot at farmers gathering potatoes in the fields of Kibbutz Nir Oz. No one was harmed. In response the Israeli Air Force carried out a number of air strikes, killing nine Palestinians, six of whom were Hamas operatives .
6. Hamas claimed responsibility for the rocket and mortar attacks. Abu Obeida , spokesman for the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, held a press conference at which he said that the operation was called “ Explosion Warning ” and had been carried out by Hamas to protest the difficult conditions of the Gaza Strip (Ma'an News Agency, April 19).
The three terrorist operatives killed at the Kerem Shalom Crossing reading
their wills before the attack, which was planned as a suicide bombing attack
(Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades Website, April 21).
7. Although Hamas failed to carry out a mass-casualty attack on Passover Eve, Hamas spokesmen praised the attack and promised that others were on the way:
i) Sami Abu Zuhri , Hamas spokesman, said that the attack's objective had been to exert pressure on Israel to lift the blockade of the Palestinian people. He said that Hamas would carry out larger attacks if the crossings remained closed.
ii) Osama Hamdan , Hamas representative in Lebanon, said that the attack showed Hamas's reliability, which promised an “eruption” in the Gaza Strip; the success of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades to come into contact with the IDF forces and Hamas's adherence to the path of “resistance” [i.e., terrorism and violence] (Radio Al-Aqsa, April 19).
Osama Hamdan, Hamas representative in Lebanon , speaking at a rally in Sidon
to protest the blockade of the Gaza Strip (Al-Aqsa TV, April 20).
iii) Ayman Taha , senior Hamas activist, said that it was the first of a series of eruptions which would take place soon if the blockade of the Gaza Strip were not lifted (Al-Aqsa TV, April 19).
Summary and evaluation
8. The attack was apparently the most complex carried out by Hamas since the disengagement in August 2005. The various aspects of the attack, in which, in our assessment, suicide bombers took part, indicated complex planning and daring . If it had succeeded it would have caused many casualties on a particularly sensitive date (on March 27, 2002, Passover Eve, Hamas carried out a suicide bombing attack at the Park Hotel in Netanya, killing 30 people and wounding almost 150).
9. The attack at the Kerem Shalom Crossing was part of the campaign Hamas is waging to lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Accompanied by a political-media campaign, it includes attacks on the vital crossings through which fuel and merchandise enter the Gaza Strip. The attack was the second in the past ten days to target the crossings: on the afternoon of April 9 a squad of four armed terrorist operatives broke through the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip and reached the Nahal Oz fuel terminal, where they shot at Israeli civilians working there. Two of the civilians were killed. 1
10. In waging its campaign Hamas does not hesitate to harm the residents of the Gaza Strip . The Kerem Shalom Crossing is the Gaza Strip's lifeline, through which pass basic foodstuffs and medications for the local population. Every week 200 trucks make deliveries to the Gazan side. Following the attack Israel decided to close the Kerem Shalom Crossing to analyze the site's security arrangements (IDF Spokesman, April 19).
1 For further information see our April 10, 2008 Bulletin entitled “Two Israeli civilians were killed in a terrorist attack at the fuel terminal of Nahal Oz, the only source of fuel supply for Gaza Strip residents”.