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Intermittent cross-field particle transport events (ITEs) are studied in the basic toroidal device TORPEX [TORoidal Plasma EXperiment, A. Fasoli et al., Phys. Plasmas 13, 055902 (2006)], with focus on the role of the density gradient. ITEs are due to the intermittent radial elongation of an interchange mode. The elongating positive wave crests can break apart and form blobs. This is not necessary, however, for plasma particles to be convected a considerable distance across the magnetic field lines. Conditionally sampled data reveal two different scenarios leading to ITEs. In the first case, the interchange mode grows radially from a slab-like density profile and leads to the ITE. A novel analysis technique reveals a monotonic dependence between the vertically averaged inverse radial density scale length and the probability for a subsequent ITE. In the second case, the mode is already observed before the start of the ITE. It does not elongate radially in a first stage, but at a later time. It is shown that this elongation is preceded by a steepening of the density profile as well. ©2008 American Institute of Physics