An Israel Defense Forces spokesman confirmed on Tuesday that an attack in the Gaza border community of Sde Avraham on Monday was a terrorist attack, not a criminally motivated incident.
Police believe the Palestinian man who perpetrated the attack and was killed by soldiers as he fled the scene did not belong to any particular terrorist group and acted on his own.
Disaster was averted on Monday when Yael Mitzafon, a mother of four, fended off the attacker who broke into her home. Mitzafon, 39, was lightly wounded in her struggle with the attacker and most likely saved the lives of her children, who were asleep in the adjacent room at the time.
An initial investigation of the assault revealed that the man crossed over the Gaza border and walked eight kilometers (five miles) inside Israel passing several towns along the way. There was apparently no indication of his infiltration and IDF border surveillance failed to spot the man entering the country.
The electronic fence along the Gaza border failed to operate as it should in such cases, possibly due to sabotage or damage caused during Operation Pillar of Defense.
GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Tal Russo said on Tuesday, "We have a lot more to learn. This is a new situation, but we will know how to restore full security to residents of the south."
A statement by the IDF Spokesman's Unit said "An investigation of the incident is ongoing. When it is over we will make the necessary conclusions and learn the lessons from this event."
A still-shaken Mitzafon said on Tuesday, "I hope no one experiences anything like that. I was forced to experience it and it was a horrific nightmare. On the other hand, it was a great miracle as well. If I had been stabbed somewhere other than the shoulder, like in a main artery, it could have ended differently."
Mitzafon recalled the incident, saying that just before 4:00 a.m. she heard footsteps in her home. "My bedroom door opened and the light turned on. Thoughts passed quickly in my head and I recalled the attack in Itamar. An Arab was standing near me and I was in a room with two small children. I wanted to buy some time. He told me to lie down on the floor. I refused, believing that if I complied, I may not come out of this alive. He then attacked me and tried to throw me down.
"I managed to fend him off. I got up and so did he and he moved to the other side of the room. I recovered quickly and told my daughter to go to her sister's room. As he was thinking what to do, I took my son and put him in our sheltered room, where another daughter was sleeping. I grabbed a large bell and began shaking it to produce a loud noise, thinking maybe one of the neighbors would hear it and come to help.
"He began to assault me and as we got up again he stabbed me in the shoulder and cut my cheek. My behavior thwarted his original plan. Under such circumstances, you experience unusual mental and physical strength that you were never aware of, to protect yourself and your children. I personally do not think I am a heroine. That is what I am supposed to do when I feel my life and my children's lives are in danger."
Mitzafon believes the ringing of the bell startled the attacker and he fled to the bathroom. "I closed the door and as I dialed on the phone, I realized he had fled through the bathroom window. Moments later, emergency service personnel arrived along with a neighbor. Several soldiers arrived a little while later."
Haim Yalin, head of the Eshkol Regional Council, criticized the way the IDF handled the incident. "The new understandings with Egypt concerning the security fence along the Gaza border endanger the residents of Eshkol. I demand that the government grant the IDF freedom to operate along the border to prevent infiltrations into the towns," he said.