Home>News Center>World

Three Israeli soldiers shot dead
Updated: 2004-09-24 15:07

Three Palestinian gunmen breached defences around an Israeli settlement in Gaza and killed three soldiers before being shot dead, exacting the worst toll on Israel's forces in occupied territory in four months.

Troops killed two of the Palestinian militants in a gunfight just after dawn on the fringes of the isolated Morag settlement on Thursday, and the third after cornering him hours later in its greenhouse area. Israeli Army Radio carried live audio of gunfire.

The attack at Morag, one of 21 Jewish enclaves in the Gaza Strip to be vacated in 2005 under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to "disengage" from conflict with Palestinians, came a day after a woman suicide bomber killed two policemen in Jerusalem.

Polls show most Israelis favour Sharon's drive to quit Gaza and part of the West Bank. But fresh assaults by militants eager to claim credit for driving out the Israelis may boost rebels in his right-wing coalition who oppose pullouts as "a reward to terrorism".

The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), a militant umbrella group, said the gunmen sneaked up to Morag's defence line in fog cloaking the desert of southern Gaza and killed three soldiers.

It said two militants were killed by return fire. The third survived the initial firefight and contacted his commander with his mobile phone to provide details, a PRC spokesman said.

The army confirmed the deaths of the soldiers after lifting initial censorship imposed in order to notify their families.

A fourth soldier was lightly wounded, while an Israeli journalist arriving for an early army briefing on the incident was shot in the leg by the third gunman on the loose. 

Following the attack, Israel tightened its closures of the West Bank and Gaza, first implemented a week ago at the start of the Jewish New Year and expected to last until the end of the 24-hour Yom Kippur fast on Saturday, Israeli media said.

The PRC took responsibility for the attack in Morag along with Islamic Jihad and the Abu Rish Brigades, an armed group inside Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

"The attack could have been more successful and deadly but we are happy with the results. Our martyrs go to paradise and their dead go to hell," said Abu Ahmed, a senior Fatah militant.

It was the military's heaviest single-day loss since May, when 11 soldiers were killed in ambushes on troop carriers, one in Gaza City and another in Rafah refugee camp, south of Morag.

"The bottom line is that terrorists managed to penetrate our (Morag) outpost and kill soldiers there. They did not get further than that... (But) this was an effective combined attack. We are investigating," Lieutenant-Colonel Dotan Razili, deputy commander of Israel's Gaza battalion, told Reuters.

Later on Thursday, Gaza militants fired three crude rockets into the nearby Israeli town of Sderot. One woman suffered light shrapnel wounds in the latest of many such attacks.

The army said soldiers also blew up an abandoned Palestinian house near the settlement of Netzarim in central Gaza that had been used as a launchpad for previous militant ambushes.

  Today's Top News     Top World News

China urges Spain to punish arsonists



Premier in Russia eyeing oil, technology deals



Opinion: UN seat means more than money



Removal of textile trade quotas urged



Crackdown on pirated software to intensify



Experts retrieve war-left chemical weapons


  Bush: Terrorists may plan more attacks
  Gates tops forbes list of richest in U.S.
  Australia vows action after incendiary device found on jet
  Powell, Libyan FM meet in sign of improved ties
  Russia seeks UN terrorist asylum abuse crackdown
  Troops guard relief operations in flood-hit Haiti
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  Related Stories  
Suicide attack kills 2 in Israel; 16 hurt
Israeli missile strike kills 2 Gaza militants
  News Talk  
  Are the Republicans exploiting the memory of 9/11?