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6 Israelis, 3 Palestinian Militants Killed in Gaza Attack

Palestinian militants killed six Israelis and seriously injured five others in an attack on a key border crossing in central Gaza late Thursday night. The assault is seen as a direct challenge to the newly elected Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly called for an end to violence and says he wants Palestinian militants to support political dialogue with Israel.

But the militants appeared to press forward with their own agenda Thursday night following a deadly attack on an Israeli outpost in Central Gaza.

The Israeli Army says gunmen stormed the terminal at the Karni crossing point after militants used a truck bomb to blow a hole in the building's perimeter.

Captain Yael Hartmann says the men opened fire as soon as they passed through the entrance.

"Three Palestinians crammed through the hole and walked to the Israeli side of the crossing," she explained. "When they opened fire there were guards there that fired back but by then it had too late."

Captain Hartmann says the militants were killed during the ensuing gun fight but not until after a number of Israeli civilians were shot.

Three militant groups Hamas, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Popular Resistance Committee claimed responsibility for the assault.

Shortly after the attack Israeli helicopters fired missiles at a clinic in Gaza with ties to Palestinian militants.

Political analysts say the Palestinian attack, the largest since Mahmoud Abbas was elected last Sunday, is a direct rebuke to the moderate president's calls for peace.

But Mahdi Abdel Hadi, head of the Palestinian research group PASIA, says the new president still enjoys significant popular support in Gaza.

"The majority of the people, especially in Gaza, they don't want to continue bleeding and they are looking for this small window of fresh air and warm sun to come through the Palestinian election," he said.

Mr. Abdel Hadi says the greatest challenge facing Mr. Abbas will be convincing the Israelis to maintain dialogue with the moderates despite new attacks from the militants.

Mr. Abbas will be formally sworn in as president Saturday during a ceremony in Ramallah.