KEREM SHALOM, Israel – Hamas suicide bombers detonated two booby-trapped jeeps at an Israeli border crossing Saturday in what a top army commander said was Hamas' most ambitious attempt to target Israelis since Israel's pullout from Gaza in 2005.
Thirteen soldiers were wounded and four Hamas assailants killed in the attack on the Kerem Shalom crossing, just hours before the start of the Jewish Passover holiday, said the commander, Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant.
Hamas also dispatched an armored vehicle to another crossing, but that vehicle was struck by an Israeli tank shell.
Hamas said it would carry out more attacks to break the blockade of Gaza, imposed after Hamas' violent takeover of the territory nearly a year ago. Saturday's bombing at Kerem Shalom was the fifth attack on Israelis at Gaza passages since last week.
The attack on Kerem Shalom started at about 6 a.m. Saturday, Galant said. Hamas militants drove an armored personnel carrier and two jeeps — made to look like Israeli army vehicles — toward the crossing under the cover of morning fog and heavy Hamas mortar fire toward the border area.
The armored personnel carrier broke through the perimeter fence, enabling the two jeeps to enter the crossing. One jeep was detonated near an army watchtower and the second near a patrol, security officials said. Thirteen soldiers were wounded in the second blast, including eight who were hospitalized.
Galant said Hamas apparently tried to cause a large number of casualties and to kidnap soldiers.
"This is an attack the likes of which we have not seen since disengagement," Galant said, referring to Israel's pullout from Gaza in September 2005. "It (the attack) was orchestrated along the border."
Later Saturday, an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a car near Kerem Shalom, killing a mechanic for the Hamas police and wounding four people, Palestinian security officials and medics said.
Hamas said three of its gunmen were killed Saturday, but released a farewell video of four attackers. One of the faces was blocked out, suggesting he is still at large.
The video showed the three vehicles, an armored personnel carrier, an military-style jeep and a small sedan. The video showed the three vehicles driving off into the morning fog. The assailants posed for the camera, smiling and toting rifles.
In Gaza City, a Hamas leader, Sami Abu Zuhri, said Hamas would carry out more attacks on crossings to break the nearly yearlong blockade of the territory. Israel and Egypt have virtually sealed Gaza since the Hamas takeover, allowing only basic supplies in. Kerem Shalom was one of those supply routes.
"These operations are the beginning of the explosions that Hamas has warned of," said Abu Zuhri. "If the parties don't intervene quickly to save Gaza and break the siege, what is coming will be greater."
Hamas also organized two protests by women and children near two other Gaza crossings, Erez for passengers and Karni for cargo. Near Erez, scores of women and children marched toward the terminal but stopped less than a mile away. They burned tires and raised Hamas flags, then dispersed.
Despite the attacks, Hamas says it's ready to reach a truce with Israel on the Gaza border and Egypt has tried to broker such a deal. Former President Jimmy Carter, defying U.S. and Israeli warnings, has been meeting with Hamas leaders in recent days in the West Bank and Syria to hear the group's views.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Hamas is showing disregard for the welfare of Gaza's residents by attacking the crossings.
"Israel has no illusions as to the true nature of Hamas and as to that organization's extremists agenda," Regev said. "It is not an accident that the international community views Hamas as illegitimate and has officially declared Hamas a terrorist organization."
Earlier Saturday, a Hamas militant was killed in a separate incident when Israeli troops raided a neighborhood of Gaza City.
Late Friday, Islamic Jihad militants fired several rockets from Gaza at the Israeli border town of Sderot, temporarily knocking out power.