EREZ CROSSING, Gaza Strip – Israel shut down the Gaza Strip on Thursday after a female Palestinian bomber killed four Israelis at a Gaza crossing — the first time the Islamic militant group Hamas had sent a woman on a suicide mission.
The aftermath of the Wednesday attack meant further hardships for Palestinians. Residents of the impoverished Gaza Strip depend on jobs in Israel for much of their income, and in a routine security move, Israel closed the crossing after the attack, turning workers away and shutting down the Erez industrial park (search) where 6,000 Palestinians work.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz imposed a one-day closure on the Gaza Strip (search), the army said, adding that only humanitarian cases could pass through.
Brig. Gen. Gadi Shamni, the Israeli military commander in Gaza, indicated that Israel would hit back.
"I imagine that we will know how to respond at the time, place and method of our choosing," he told Israel TV.
Two of the dead were Israeli immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
Police Staff Sgt. Vladimir Trostinsky, 22, moved to Israel with his mother and younger brother seven years ago, Channel Two TV reported. He recently returned to a combat unit after an illness.
Cpl. Andrei Kegeles, 19, also in Israel for seven years, was drafted four months ago. Speaking Russian, his father told Channel Two TV that Kegeles was expected home later Wednesday for a short leave. They said he had insisted on serving in a front-line army unit.
The other dead soldier was Staff Sgt. Tzur Or, 20. The name of the security guard was not immediately released.
The army said four of the seven people wounded in the attack were Palestinians.
There was widespread speculation that one of the Hamas (search) goals in the attack was to focus blame on Israel by increasing hardships in Gaza. Late Wednesday, Palestinian militants fired two mortar rounds at the empty industrial park, but they fell short.
Rami Mansour, 39, a Palestinian who works an Israeli-owned garage in the industrial zone, was angry that militant groups put his income in jeopardy.
"No one is supporting the [Israeli] occupation, but if you want to fight you have to think of others," he said.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia declined to condemn the bombing, saying continued Israeli attacks and restrictions on the Palestinians are leading "to more escalation on both sides."
About 15,000 Palestinian workers and another 4,000 merchants from Gaza have permits to cross the Erez checkpoint to reach jobs inside Israel. The number varies with the security situation.
Before violence erupted in 2000, about 100,000 Palestinians from Gaza worked in Israel, providing the main source of income for the poverty-stricken territory. Now many of those jobs are filled by foreign workers.
Three years of violence has severely depressed the Palestinian economy, and the unemployment rate is more than 50 percent.
The Erez crossing is routinely closed after Palestinian terror attacks. After Wednesday's bombing, workers trying to enter Israel were turned back.
The bomber, Reem Raiyshi, a 22-year-old mother of two small children, was escorted into a room to be checked after telling soldiers she had a metal plate in her leg that set off the detector. Once inside, she blew herself up.
Israel returned Raiyshi's body to the Palestinians, who planned to bury her Thursday. Israel usually keeps the bodies of suicide bombers, burying them in unmarked graves, to prevent the celebratory funerals often held for the attackers.
The military did not say why it decided to return Raiyshi's body.
The bombing was jointly claimed by Hamas (search) and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades (search), linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. Before the attack, Raiyshi made a video standing in front of two Hamas flags.
In the video, Raiyshi wears the traditional hijab covering for women, holds an assault rifle and stands before two green Hamas flags.
"I always wanted to be the first woman to carry out a martyr attack, where parts of my body can fly all over. That is the only wish I can ask God for," she said with a smile.
Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin (search) said the use of a woman bomber was unique for the Islamic group, but holy war "is an obligation of all Muslims, men and women."
Raiyshi had two children: a 3-year-old boy, Obedia, and an 18-month-old girl, Doha. Her brother-in-law, Yusef Awad, said Raiyshi and her husband got into a fight with the rest of the family two months ago and had not been seen since.
He expressed disbelief that she had abandoned her children.
"We were not expecting that from her. We would not have thought it possible," he said.