GAZA CITY ø Palestinian insurgents destroyed another Israeli armored
personnel carrier in the Gaza Strip.
It was the second time in as many days that insurgents destroyed an
Israeli APC in the Gaza Strip. The APC was carrying a a ton of explosives
that blew up and killed all five crew members in the combat vehicle along
the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip.
"An armored personnel carrier, responsible for the detonation of the
tunnels, was struck and subsequently exploded while preparing to detonate a
tunnel," an Israeli military statement said. "The explosion was apparently a
result of an RPG fired at the force."
The blast on Wednesday evening tore apart the U.S.-origin M113 APC and
pieces of the
vehicle as well as parts of the bodies of soldiers flew into the adjacent
Palestinian refugee camp of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The Islamic
Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing.
"We don't really know what happened yesterday," Israeli Chief of Staff
Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon told a news conference outside Rafah on Thursday.
"This is being investigated."
The destruction of the two Israeli APCs has sparked what military
sources termed an intensified effort to locate and eliminate Palestinian
insurgency strongholds in the Gaza Strip. The sources said the military
plans a series of combined armored, infantry and air operations in the Gaza
Strip over the next few days. They said the navy would also participate in
"We have to think of the following day," Lt. Col. Ofer Winter, commander
of the Givati infantry brigade's reconnaissance unit, said. "After three or
four hours of sleep, the soldiers are preparing for the next operation."
The APC destroyed on Wednesday was part of a convoy on patrol along the
Egyptian-Gaza Strip border to detect tunnels full of explosives that connect
Rafah to neighboring Egypt and meant to destroy Israeli armored vehicles.
The lead vehicle in convoy, an armored D-9 bulldozer, was disabled by a mine
and two soldiers were injured.
When the APC moved to help, it was struck by what appeared to be a
rocket-propelled grenade that blew up the explosives inside the vehicle. The
explosion took place along an eight-kilometer 20-meter wide border route
called "Philalelphi." Military sources said this area was the most violent
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"We conducted hundreds of such operations in the past and there were no
casualties," Winter said. "But we always knew that this could happen."
Israeli troops and combat vehicles came under fire by Palestinian
insurgents as they searched for the bodies of the Israeli casualties.
Ya'alon said that in the fighting Israeli troops killed nine Palestinians,
seven of them in an AH-64A Apache helicopter missile strike. He said
Egyptian authorities allowed Israeli military representatives to search for
the Israeli bodies on the Egyptian side of the border.
So far, Israel's military detected and destroyed at least 11 tunnels in
2004. Military sources said Southern Command had increased patrols along the
Egyptian border in wake of intelligence that Palestinian insurgents were
trying to smuggle Soviet-origin Katyusha rockets into the Gaza Strip.
On Tuesday, an M113 APC was destroyed by a mine detonated by
Palestinian insurgents in Gaza City. Six Israeli soldiers were killed and
Palestinian insurgents made off with the parts of the bodies of the Israelis
as well as subsystems of the M113.
On late Wednesday, Jihad returned the body parts in a deal arranged by
Egypt. At the same time, Israeli troops and combat vehicles left the Zeitoun
neighborhood of Gaza City, the target of an earlier Israeli attack on
Palestinian weapons laboratories.
Israeli military sources said the success of Palestinian attacks on
Israeli APCs reflect training and explosives relayed by Hizbullah. They said
Hamas and Jihad insurgents have been trained in the production of mines,
rockets and other weapons.
Palestinian sources said 24 Palestinians have been killed in fighting
with Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip since Tuesday, at least 10 of them in
Rafah on Thursday. Overnight Thursday, Hamas gunners fired a Kassam-class
short-range missile toward a community in Israel. An Israeli woman was