Israeli forces intercepted a shipment of high explosives smuggled through a Gaza-Israel passage and headed for the West Bank, the military said on Wednesday, underlining security concerns that often lead to closing the vital cargo crossing.
The military said soldiers found the explosives hidden in a cage after smugglers managed to get them through the heavily guarded Karni crossing. The military said the explosives, a total of 6kg of TNT, were headed for a Palestinian man in the West Bank town of Tulkarem and were meant for a terror attack against Israelis.
Israeli security arrested three Israeli Arabs and the Palestinian in Tulkarem in connection with the explosives smuggling, the military said.
The military said this was the first known successful smuggling of explosives though the Karni crossing since 2004, when two Palestinian suicide bombers hid in a container and blew themselves up at Israel's Ashdod port, killing 10 Israelis.
Most goods entering and leaving Gaza pass through the Karni crossing, but Israel frequently closes it, citing security concerns. That leads to complaints from Palestinians and human rights groups because of the economic hardship it generates in poverty-stricken Gaza.
Israel has been complaining about the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza from Egypt since Israel pulled out of Gaza last year and gave up control of the Gaza-Egypt border. In a weeklong operation that ended on Tuesday, the military said it discovered and destroyed 15 tunnels under the border.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Jewish settlers attacked a group of Palestinian farmers with rocks and metal bars, wounding at least three people, in what has become an annual scene of violence during the olive harvest season.
Ibrahim Salah said about 30 family members were tending to their field west of Nablus when some 50 settlers descended on the area, wielding rocks and metal bars, and some holding guns. He said his son, Basel, 31, was hit in the head by a metal bar and taken to a hospital.
Israeli troops arrived and broke up the crowd, evacuating Salah to a hospital, the army said.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said three Palestinians and one settler were slightly wounded. He said the farmers did not coordinate with authorities or arrange an escort, as is customary during the harvest season.
The incident occurred near Havat Gilad, one of two dozen unauthorized West Bank outposts the Israeli government has pledged to dismantle in accordance with the internationally backed "road map" peace plan.
In Jerusalem, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana began another effort to get Middle East peace talks moving again. Though the road map has been on the table since 2003, there has been little progress.
Solana had a tense meeting with Avigdor Lieberman, a hardline Israeli politician who is about to enter Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Cabinet. Lieberman takes a tough stand against the Palestinians.
"I told him that I disagree basically with everything he says, but we have to talk to everybody," Solana said.
Solana met Olmert later and planned to see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday evening.