Israeli soldiers were put in harm's way on Saturday after the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was petitioned by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to save some of his Fatah allies from a brutal Hamas crackdown in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas forces began imposing themselves on areas of Gaza City controlled by the powerful Fatah-aligned Hilles clan at the weekend, prompting increasingly violent confrontations that by Sunday afternoon had left 11 people dead and nearly 100 wounded.
As the fighting intensified, 188 members of the Hilles clan, including leader Ahmed Hilles, made a dash for the Gaza security fence. Abbas urged Israel to let them through the border, despite the fact that many of the Hilles are known terrorists.
Israel complied by opening the gates, and even took 16 wounded clan members to Israeli hospitals for treatment. Israel insisted that the uninjured be sent to those parts of Judea and Samaria that are under Abbas' control, but the Western-backed Palestinian leader did an about-face and refused to provide asylum to all but 12 of the refugees.
Many of the Hilles were then sent back to Gaza, where they were promptly arrested by Hamas.
Speaking to Israel National News, military expert Lieutenant-Colonel (res.) Yoel Tzur called Israel's involvement in the affair "idiotic." Tzur said Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak agreed to Abbas' request for their own political interests, as the current government still hopes to oversee an ill-advised peace deal with the Palestinians.