Jerusalem – A few seconds before terrorists infiltrated the fuel terminal of Nahal Oz on Wednesday, the manager on the Palestinian side of the Karni crossing phoned his Israeli counterpart to warn of what was about to happen. However, this phone call was not enough to prevent it. This emerged on Wednesday from the inquiry into the terror attack made at the Gaza Division. Nonetheless, immediately after the call was received, forces were called in.
Israeli army sources said the terror attack had been planned for several weeks, if not months, and it was meant to be an integrated terror attack intended to strike the terminal through which Israel transfers fuel into the Gaza Strip. The goal was to stop the flow of fuel into Gaza and to blame Israel. Another goal was to kidnap soldiers for a much larger prisoner exchange deal.
At about 3 p.m., Palestinians launched at Nahal Oz heavy fire with dozens of mortar shells. A few minutes later four terrorists with rifles, grenades and RPGs managed to cut the border fence using wire cutters and easily reached the fuel terminal of Nahal Oz. There were seven people there at the time: Oleg Lipson, 37, and Lev Cherniak, 58, both from Beer Sheva, who coordinate the fuel transfer between Israel and Gaza, and another five tanker drivers.
The terrorists managed to approach the two coordinators, shot them at point-blank range, killing them instantly. By the time troops arrived, the terrorists managed to flee back into the Gaza Strip and vanished into agricultural fields. It is believed that they came from the Sajaiya neighborhood. The tanker drivers were able to take cover. Soldiers from the Givati Brigade who were alerted from their base in nearby Kibbutz Nahal Oz arrived within seconds and began a pursuit of the terrorists together with Armored Corps forces.
In the exchange of fire, two of the terrorists were killed, but two others managed to get away in a car that was waiting for them. However, a short time later, an Air Force aircraft was able to hit the car. The Palestinians reported three killed. In four airstrikes made later, another three terrorists were killed, and a cell firing mortar shells was also seen to be hit.
The Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees, Islamic Jihad and the Mujahedeen Brigades (a faction affiliated with Fatah) claimed responsibility for the terror attack, which they called Operation Arrogance Riddance.
“Our goal was to kidnap Israeli soldiers to exchange them for Palestinian prisoners,” said the spokesman of the Popular Resistance Committees.
The Gaza Division of the IDF began an inquiry into the incident. The main question, to which there is no answer at the moment, is how the four terrorists managed to infiltrate Israeli territory in broad daylight without the observation and intelligence systems noticing them and how they managed to return to the Palestinian side. High-ranking security sources said that Hamas was responsible for the outcome of the terror attack and would pay for it.
After the terror attack the transfer of fuel into the Gaza Strip was stopped. It will not be renewed in the coming days, until the political echelon makes a different decision.
Barak: Hamas Will Pay
Hamas is responsible for the terror attack and it will pay the price when the time comes, Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak promised on Thursday.
Mr. Barak held a situation assessment meeting on Wednesday in his bureau and instructed that the fuel terminal at Nahal Oz, considered to be the oxygen line of the Gaza Strip, not be closed. A security source said Thursday night: “The security establishment will not respond in the coming days to the murderous terror attack at the terminal. If we close the terminal, Hamas will depict this as intensifying the siege on the Gaza Strip.”
The Israel Foreign Ministry also reacted strongly.
“The terror attack again proves that the terrorists in the Gaza Strip not only attack Israelis but also try to strike the civilian infrastructure that makes normal life in Gaza possible.”
The ministry added, “Anyone with eyes in their head realizes that the goal of the terrorists is to kill as many Israelis as possible and to undermine any expression of coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, as there exists at the border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip.”
However, Israeli security sources expressed criticism of the incident and wanted to know why the IDF did not guard the workers at the terminal and only made do with troops at a great distance away, despite the clear threat to the crossings from terror cells and from tunnels in the area.
These security sources said last night that the IDF troops in the Gaza Division should have provided security for the perimeter of the crossing and that this would have prevented the terror attack.
Workers at the Nahal Oz terminal related on Wednesday that they have become used to crossing when there is fire in the Gaza Strip. Almost every day, mortar shells are fired from the northern Gaza Strip at the kibbutz, at the terminal and at the Karni crossing. The shells usually fall in open areas and in the kibbutz’s agricultural fields.
Just a month ago shots were fired at a container at the terminal, but it was not hit. The workers there, most of them from the Dor Energy company, were surprised yesterday when the terrorists succeeded in infiltrating Israeli territory and reaching the terminal.
“We did not expect such a surprise in broad daylight,” said one truck driver who works at the terminal.
Just two days ago a protective wall was placed there for the workers to take cover if there were shooting. On Wednesday it seems that this wall saved the four drivers who hid behind it.
The terminal is open five days a week, Sunday to Thursday. Diesel fuel for generators, garbage trucks, water pumps, sewage and humanitarian needs, gas and cooking oil go through without restrictions.
Olmert Snubs Jimmy Carter
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is to arrive on Sunday for a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority in order to examine a peace initiative that he is promoting.
Yedioth Ahronoth has learned that Mr. Carter asked to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, but the Prime Minister’s Bureau informed him that the prime minister’s schedule would not permit such a meeting.
Mr. Carter is to meet in Israel with President Shimon Peres and MK Avigdor Lieberman. Mr. Carter asked to meet with additional officials, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak; Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni; Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai; Minister Ami Ayalon and Opposition Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu. Those requests have not been answered yet.
Israel recently rejected a request by “the Elders” (Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson) to come to the region to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Gillerman, who was involved in talks with the Elders, was quoted by Yedioth Ahronoth as having said: “Carter is an enemy of Israel who in the last year proved to be two-faced, an anti-Semite and anti-Israel. He is an American whose elder years put his younger years to shame.”
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2008