Jerusalem – Two Palestinian terrorists from the northern Gaza Strip successfully crossed the border into Israel on Saturday. The two men simply climbed over the concrete wall that separates Israel from the Gaza Strip near the Israeli agricultural collective community known as Moshav Netiv Haasara with the use of a rope ladder and other homemade instruments.
They were not identified by Israeli troops inside Israel both because of the heavy early morning fog and because the concrete wall is not fitted with any electronic detection devices.
The gunmen, who were reportedly disguised as Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers and were heavily armed. They made their way to an IDF base near Erez and opened fire on a guard position there.
They were disguised as soldiers, wearing army uniforms and carrying battle vests, bombs, explosive belts, grenades and light arms. The distance between them and their target the homes of the inhabitants of Netiv Haasara was only a few dozen feet.
Although they were within a few feet from the moshav, the two terrorists decided for some unclear reason to head eastward, toward the Erez checkpoint and Kibbutz Erez. The ensuing exchanges of fire prompted the IDF to call in troops from the Golani Brigade as reinforcements, which ultimately killed the two Palestinian gunmen. The other two terrorists killed on Saturday were Khader Ukal, member of the Popular Resistance Committees, and Mahmad Saker, a member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
IDF troops in the area were on high alert, not only because of the weather. Recently, Arab terrorist organizations have increased their efforts to infiltrate the fence and perpetrate terror attacks inside Israeli territory. In the past month and a half, the Golani Brigade, the sector’s security guards, killed twenty terrorists at the fence.
“The terrorists’ ladder was carefully constructed,” a high-ranking army officer said on Saturday. “It is very stable, with steps made of loops that allow for easy climbing. There was no warning because the wall has no electronic system, as the security fence does.”
IDF officials believed on Saturday that the fog made things difficult for them as well, causing them to think mistakenly that Netiv Haasara was east of them.
When they arrived at the IDF’s DCO headquarters at the Erez roadblock, they decided to take advantage of the opportunity, opening fire at the guard post and throwing a grenade.
“There was heavy mist. I heard gunfire, and bullets hit the guard station window,” a soldier guarding the entrance said on Saturday. “I threw myself to the ground. The gunfire continued. They fired six bullets at the guard station. Five hit the window and one hit the wall. Suddenly I heard the sound of a powerful explosion. It was a grenade going off a meter or two away from me. I managed to aim my gun at the place where the bullets were coming from and fire a few bullets.” Only at this stage, an hour and 20 minutes after they entered Israel, did IDF officials realize that a terrorist infiltration was going on. If the terrorists had not been tempted to attack the base, apparently no one would have known they existed, and they would have continued uninterrupted to the houses of Kibbutz Erez.
When they realized that they had been spotted, the terrorists began to flee through the fields. In the wake of the gunfire, large numbers of Golani Brigade troops were summoned to the scene and began pursuit. The terrorists spotted them and opened fire. As a result of the gunfire, a soldier of the Twelfth Battalion was wounded. The troops continued pursuit and succeeded in locating the terrorists. They surrounded them and killed them in the gun battle that ensued.
The local inhabitants were asked by police to remain in their homes and line the security squad was alerted. It was feared that two other terrorists were hiding in the area. Only an hour later, at the end of wide-scale searches by IDF and police helicopter, did the alert end.
People in the communities near the fence sighed with relief, but expressed a great deal of concern over the situation. “We are counting the days until a disaster happens here,” a resident of Netiv Haasara said. “The warning lights are blinking right in front of our eyes. It cries to heaven. Whom is the government waiting for? The next disaster is already here. Whether the terrorists succeeded in striking this time or not makes no difference to us. They succeeded in coming here armed. This time they failed, but next time they will enter homes.” Israeli army officials believe that this terror attack was planned for a long time and in an extremely professional manner. Recently, many infiltration attempts have been made from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. Only a week and a half ago, a tunnel was discovered that had been dug beneath a greenhouse for growing tomatoes on the Palestinian side that led to the Erez crossing.
While Israeli army officials were surprised by the professional rope ladder that was used by the terrorists to cross the border, experts were hardly impressed with the performance
“Anyone who knows just a little bit about ropes and climbing could build you a contraption like that in a second,” said last night Amiran Schuster, a member of the Golan Heights Rescue Unit. “Any average individual is capable of conceiving of and executing that sort of thing. There’s nothing brilliant about it. The contraption with the wheels was probably the cart that they used to transport the ladder to the site. Apparently, it was designed to serve as an anchor on the concrete wall, too.
Yaron Koren from the rescue team of the Herzliya Fire Department, said: “That equipment isn’t used in the world of rappelling. You can see that the clasp that connected the cart to the rope wasn’t a standard clasp, but a regular clasp that can be bought at any construction store. The knots along the length of the rope were simple knots for comfort, grip and climbing, and weren’t professional knots. The rope itself was a simple work rope that is generally used to pull heavy loads or for fencing purposes.”
A two-and-a-half kilometer long wall that runs along the border of the northern Gaza Strip is considered to be a security weak spot because it is not complemented with an electrified fence that would give an indication in the event of infiltration. “We’re talking about a dummy obstacle,” said one security official on Saturday. “Technological solutions for that exist in 2007, solutions that are implemented in Judea and Samaria successfully, and there is no reason why they shouldn’t be implemented in the Gaza sector as well, which is considered to be the hottest sector.” Israeli military officials said that the improvements were not installed due to budgetary concerns, and said that they hoped that the issue would be taken care of before someone paid for that with their life
The Commander of the Northern Brigade in the Gaza Division Colonel Moni Katz said that the army had not had any prior intelligence about terrorists’ intention to infiltrate Israel for terrorist purposes. However, the entire sector was placed on a state of heightened activity and patrols along the border after a heavy fog descended on the area. “Crossing the wall is not a good incident, but it didn’t surprise us. We can’t place a soldier along every meter of the wall. That’s exactly why we have the troops that are here; they know how to handle an incident of this kind.”
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2007