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TEL AVIV – In what defense leaders here are calling a “stunning” and “well-orchestrated” terror operation, two Israeli soldiers were killed and another was kidnapped today when Hamas and other Palestinian groups raided a major military station within Israeli territory near the Gaza Strip border.

It was the first kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian terrorists since 1994. The operation went well beyond the scope of sophistication evidenced in recent Palestinian terror attacks.

Israeli security officials told WorldNetDaily they have information the terrorists who carried out today’s attack were trained by Iranian Revolutionary Guard units and Hezbollah guerillas.

Senior Palestinian security officials linked to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party told WND that Hamas and other Gaza-based groups have been receiving advanced military training by Iran and Hezbollah in recent months.

The officials said the training included carrying out guerilla attacks such as the one perpetuated today, methods of intelligence collection, and instructions for the use of advanced missiles. The training, they said, took place in the Egyptian Sinai desert and at special camps set up in Sudan.

Well-planned attack used tunnel, soldier kidnapped

During today’s attack, eight terrorists used a half mile tunnel they dug to infiltrate behind Israel’s Kerem Shalom military station, which is on the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border.

Soldiers at the border usually monitor the Gaza Strip and not the Israeli side, where the tunnel exit was located.

Upon exiting the tunnel, the Palestinian terrorists split into three cells, one lobbing over 20 antitank missiles at an army tank; another attacking the tank with grenades, killing 2 Israeli soldiers and kidnapping a third; and the final cell attacking and nearly overtaking an army lookout post.

Two terrorists were killed during the raid, while the others escaped back into Gaza with the kidnapped soldier. The army was not aware one of its troops had been kidnapped until several minutes after the operation.

The Kerem Shalom station had been on high alert the past few days after the army received specific warnings of a terror attack there. One of the warning alerts, obtained by WND, outlined the possibility of a Palestinian attack using a tunnel.

Officers at the station told WND the army dug numerous holes in the area with heavy equipment in search of underground tunnels in response to the terror alerts, but no tunnels were uncovered. One army hole came close to the tunnel used in today’s attack.

Security officials said the terrorists who carried out today’s raid likely had “excellent intelligence information” on the exact IDF positions at the military station. They said the tunnels likely took several weeks to dig.

Search on for Israeli soldier

The Popular Resistance Committees, a Gaza-based terror organization, took credit for the attack, along with Hamas’ so-called “resistance wing” and a largely unknown group calling itself the Army of Islam.

The terror groups claimed the operation was in response to the Israeli assassination earlier this month of Committees leader Jamal Abu Samhadana and Israeli air strikes aimed at Qassam rockets from Gaza. But defense officials pointed out the digging of the tunnel alone likely took weeks and that such an operation likely included months of planning, implying the attack was called for well before Samhadana was assassinated.

The Committees and Hamas regularly work together. Both Israeli and Palestinian security officials say the Committees has coordinated attacks with Sinai based militants linked to al-Qaida.

Israel is working to locate the missing soldier, identified as 19-year-old Corporal Gilad Shalit. It gave the PA 24-hours to hand him over. The U.S., the European Union, Egypt and Jordan have joined in diplomatic efforts to have Shalit released from captivity.

Egyptian sources say the soldier is in good health, but an earlier claim by a Committees spokesman said Shalit sustained a serious wound to his stomach.

Netanyahu: PM Olmert’s ‘paralysis’ on fighting terror spurred attack

Meanwhile, defense officials are holding discussions on a planned response to today’s attack. According to defense officials, IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz recommended a major operation, including a large-scale ground invasion of Gaza and targeted assassination of Hamas officials, most of whom went into hiding immediately following the attack.

It was unclear whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was going to order a heavy retaliation. He ruled out the possibility of negotiations over the soldier’s release.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, though, blasted Olmert’s response to terror attacks thus far.

“[It was] hesitancy and paralysis of the Olmert government, that had spurred Hamas to launch the large-scale attack,” said Netanyahu.

“The government and the prime minister are demonstrating hesitancy … and the other side recognizes this. That’s what happened today. They recognize it, and they continue, and they escalate.

“And the next time we must respond, it will need to be that much more massive, in order to pass their threshold of fear. Therefore, this was a fundamental error.”

Netanyahu was referring to the Olmert government’s military reaction to an onslaught of rocket attacks that have been bombarding Jewish communities bordering the Gaza Strip. The prime minister has largely limited the IDF’s military response to aerial strikes against missile launch crews, while the army has been petitioning for ground operations in Gaza. The aerial attacks have failed to stop or even slow the rate of Palestinian missile attacks.



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