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Southern Israel erupted in terror attacks on Thursday. In a major escalation, about twenty jihadists who had apparently originated in Gaza crossed into Israel through Sinai and carried out several hits.
It started at about noon with a shooting attack on a civilian bus. A half-hour later explosives were detonated against an army patrol. Not long after there were attacks on public and private vehicles with guns, a mortar shell, and an antitank missile. All in all six civilians, a soldier, and a police officer were killed and about 25 people wounded. Two more soldiers were injured in hostilities closer to evening.
Reports say the Israeli defense establishment had intelligence information on such an attack, but expected it to happen at night—not brazenly in broad daylight. It was also expected that the direct perpetrators, the Al Qaeda- and Hamas-linked Popular Resistance Committees of Gaza, would attempt to kidnap a soldier; security forces, in fighting back and killing several of the terrorists, apparently prevented that outcome. It was the PRC that kidnapped the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held in Gaza to this day, at the Israel-Gaza border over five years ago.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in a short, terse press briefing, said that “If there is anyone who thinks Israel will accept this they are wrong…. Israel will exact a heavy price from terror chiefs.” A short time earlier the Israeli air force had killed the PRC’s chief Qud al-Nirab, as well as the organization’s military commander and four others, with a strike on a building in Gaza. It seemed doubtful that this was all Netanyahu had in mind; and early Friday morning Israeli planes hit terror targets in Gaza while terrorists kept lobbing rockets at Israeli civilian targets.
Some major implications of these events include:
The role of Egypt: Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak stressed the fact that “the Egyptian grip is loosening and this is the reason for this attack….” It is no secret that, since the fall of the Mubarak regime, Sinai has descended into anarchy. This has involved reported infiltrations by global terror and rampant smuggling by Bedouins of Iranian weapons into Gaza.
Israeli media outlets quoted Egyptian officials denying any Egyptian involvement in Thursday’s attacks. It was also reported that Egyptian soldiers firing from across the Sinai border had killed at least two of the terrorists. Even if so, the fact remains that the terrorist squad—disguised, according to some Israeli eyewitnesses, as Egyptian soldiers themselves—managed to cross through Sinai to Israel. If not collusion, this at best bespeaks chaos.
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