The firefight flared Monday afternoon, March 22 and raged several hours after IDF spotters detected three or more Palestinian infiltrators from Gaza already over the fence in the Kissufim sector.
debkafile's military sources report that this was the third time in five days that Palestinian gunmen were able to cross the fence amid orders to the troops from defense minister Ehud Barak, chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi and the chiefs of the Southern Command to keep a low profile and hold their fire.
The flare-up Monday quickly escalated: An Israeli tank force opened fire, the Palestinians fled back into the Gaza Strip and the tanks crossed the fence in pursuit. A Golani infantry unit mistook the tank force for the fleeing Palestinian gunmen and opened fire, killing one of the tank crew, Sgt. Gabriel Cepic, 21, from Zichron Yaacov. A colonel will lead the inquiry into the incident.
Three of the intruders were captured.
This incident occurred three days after three pairs of al Qaeda-trained motorbike riders crashed through the fence Friday night, March 19 and opened RPG and automatic fire on Israeli soldiers on patrol near the Israeli village of Kfar Azza (as debkafile reported under the caption: Palestinian terrorists ape Taliban-style motorbike attacks). They missed their aim and were allowed to turn around and head back into the Gaza Strip unharmed.
That penetration occurred the night after Palestinian terrorists breached the border for the first time. They too were allowed to escape..
All three infiltrations plus repeated Qassam missile attacks occurred during the visits of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and European Union foreign affairs executive Catherin Ashton to the Gaza Strip, yet neither appeared to notice the Palestinian cross-border infringements and violence.
Monday, Hamas leader Mahmoud a-Zahar accused members of the rival Fatah of staging hostile operations against the Israel soldiers and shooting missiles on orders from the Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, in order to provoke a major conflagration between Hamas and Israel