One day after Israeli officials extended the closure of the territories in an effort to quell the latest wave of terror, Palestinian militants struck again.
One Israeli security guard was killed and another seriously wounded Monday when Palestinian gunmen ambushed a civilian convoy that was escorting two fuel tankers in the Gaza Strip.
Both the Hamas fundamentalist group and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine initially claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred near the Nahal Oz border crossing between Israel and Gaza. But Hamas later denied any involvement.
The gunmen reportedly riddled the car with automatic fire at close range. Some bullets pierced the car’s windshield, instantly killing Yevgeny Dromov, 32, of Ashkelon.
Israeli and Palestinian security personnel accompanying the convoy opened fire on the gunmen, who sped into an orchard and escaped.
The Israel Defense Force sealed off the area. Palestinian police searched for the attackers.
Elsewhere in Gaza, Palestinians demonstrated near an IDF roadblock to protest the closure Israel imposed on Gaza and the West Bank in the wake of the Jan. 22 double suicide bombing near Netanya that claimed the lives of 21 Israelis.
The closure has prevented tens of thousands of Palestinians from reaching jobs within Israel.
On Sunday, the Cabinet agreed to loosen some restrictions for humanitarian needs, such as granting free passage to doctors and teachers and allowing essential goods to reach Palestinians.
Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat condemned Monday’s attack, calling it an economic blow to the Palestinian people-a reference to the Israeli-imposed closure.
“The terrorists are playing a dirty war against the Palestinian people and the peace process,” Arafat said.
According to Israeli news reports Sunday, Palestinian security forces prevented four terror attacks from being carried out since the Jan. 22 bombing.
The issue also promised to be high on the agenda of a meeting scheduled for later this week between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Arafat.
“I believe it [the Palestinian Authority] can do more against terror,” Rabin told reporters Monday. “The problem is the degree of effort and determination the Palestinian Authority invests in the war against terror.”
The Israeli Cabinet decided last week that it would not lift the closure on Gaza until the Palestinian leadership lived up to the security commitments spelled out in the self-rule accord it signed with Israel.