Our thanks to Mike Sachs Northeast Regional Director AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) for collecting and sharing these articles on the terror attacks that have been taking place in Israel today.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured and families of those killed.
Soldier wounded as attacks continue
Ynet – Ynet reporters August 18, 2011
GOC Southern Command Major-General Tal Russo told reporters Thursday that of the seven Israeli victims killed in the multiple terror attack near Eilat, six were civilians and one was a soldier.
Another shooting incident was reported during the press conference, where Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz also spoke.
A military source says fire was opened on an IDF patrol searching for the terrorists who committed the deadly attacks in the south, wounding a combat soldier.
Russo recounted the chain of events during the briefing, saying that three terrorists carrying explosive devices, weapons and grenades entered Israel from Sinai.
“They spread across 300-meter range and started shooting at the first bus,” he said. “They shot at another car and another bus.”
Later a suicide bomber detonated his explosives belt, and another terrorsit opened fire at IDF forces that arrive on the scene. According to Russo, two operatives were shot and killed over the border fence, and it appears that Egyptian forces killed two others on their territory.
“At this point the event has been seemed finished, but then we found explosives on the path,” Russo said.
He added that one of the attacks took place near an Egyptian border checkpoint. “It appears the Egyptians hit two terrorists in their territory,” Russo said.
In his briefing, Gantz addressed the bombing of a Rafah building said to be used by the Popular Resistance Committees. “We have operated in Gaza, in a location where we believe the attacks originated, and we will continue to operate in the rest of the area in order to ensure that residents of Eilat continue to live their lives in peace,” he said.
Barak, in his speech, blamed the attack on lax security in Egypt since former President Hosni Mubarak’s downfall. “The Egyptian grip is loosening and this is the reason for this attack, which apparently originated in Gaza,” he said.
“Unfortunately it is not always possible to prevent such attacks, but the IDF is already hitting the heads of the committees in Gaza and if need be the strikes will be exacerbated. We must understand – there are more aims to terror, more determination to continue to attack us.”
Meanwhile, the Anti Terror Bureau released a statement Thursday evening warning Israelis against visiting Sinai. Israelis already there should leave immediately, the statement adds.
“Following the terror in the south, please note that a grave travel warning is still in effect on Sinai,” the bureau stated.
The US condemned the attack. “We condemn the brutal terrorist attacks in southern Israel today in the strongest terms. Our deepest condolences go to the victims, their families and loved ones, and we wish those injured a speedy recovery. The US and Israel stand united against terror and we hope that those behind this attack will be brought to justice swiftly,” a State Department spokesman told Ynet.
Ilana Curiel, Roi Mandel, Hanan Greenberg, Attila Somfalvi, and Omri Efraim contributed to this report
Terror down south
The Economist August 18, 2011
A TRIPLE terror attack on a quiet scenic road running down the Egyptian border to the resort of Eilat, on the Red Sea, has left at least seven Israelis dead and some thirty injured. The Israeli army says seven attackers died in a running gun battle with anti-terror police commandos.
The assaults began at noon on Thursday August 18th with small-arms fire on a bus, mainly carrying off-duty soldiers, headed towards Eilat. The driver managed to speed away before any lives were lost, but a military vehicle racing to the scene was hit by a roadside bomb. Soon after, another civilian bus and a car were attacked at a spot nearby, this time with anti-tank missiles.
The minister of defence, Ehud Barak, claimed that the attackers came from the Gaza Strip. He vowed retaliation, which prompted the Hamas authorities in Gaza quickly to evacuate government buildings and other possible targets of Israeli warplanes, helicopters or drones. True to his word Israel soon unleashed its military might on Gaza with a series of air strikes on Rafah on the Gaza-Sinai border. Palestinian sources said at least six people were killed.
But while it is politically convenient (and probably accurate) to point to Hamas-run Gaza as the terrorists’ point of departure, it is more unnerving for Israeli leaders to consider the evident ease with which they crossed through the Sinai to their targets just over the border.
Thursday’s incident will reinforce growing fears in Israel that the Sinai Peninsula—sovereign Egyptian territory—is slipping out of Egypt’s control. The Arab spring and the removal of Hosni Mubarak in February have triggered repeated arson attacks on a natural gas pipeline running through Sinai which supplies Egyptian gas to both Israel and Jordan. Local Beduin tribes are in open revolt against Cairo, and seem increasingly contemptuous of Egyptian authority. Smuggling, mainly of drugs and women, is on the rise. And there are persistent reports of gangs of fundamentalists, some said to be linked to al Qaeda, roaming freely in northern Sinai.
The Egyptian army has recently beefed up its mobile patrols in Sinai. It requested and received Israel’s consent to do so, as required under the 1979 peace treaty between the two countries. The treaty lays down stringent limitation-of-forces provisions for Sinai, so often a battle-field between Israel and Egypt. But judging by Thursday’s events, further reinforcements of men, vehicles and weapons may be needed.
Israel faces a dangerous dilemma. On the one hand, it wants to see security restored to Sinai and would like the interim Egyptian regime under General Muhammad Tantawi to reassert Cairo’s authority over the peninsula. On the other, Israel has always been loth to loosen the limitations that the treaty sets on Egyptian military deployment east of Suez. That reluctance is seen as all the more prudent now, given the turbulence and uncertainty still shrouding Egypt’s future.
Israel says gunmen who came through Egypt kill 7
Associated Press – AMY TEIBEL August 18, 2011
Squads of gunmen armed with heavy weapons and explosives crossed into southern Israel on Thursday and attacked buses, cars and an army patrol in one of the boldest attacks on the Jewish state in years, officials said. Israel said the Palestinian assailants from Hamas-ruled Gaza killed seven people after crossing through Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
Exchanges of gunfire across the Israel-Egypt border continued late into the evening, but it wasn’t clear whether assailants were still at large within Israeli territory, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said.
The series of attacks were the boldest against the Jewish state in years and stoked concerns that Palestinian militants might be exploiting instability in Egypt. Within hours, Israeli aircraft bombed southern Gaza in retaliation, and Gaza medical official Adham Salmia said five militants and one child were killed in a strike on a private home.
The attacks on Israelis began at midday. They came close together in time and location and appeared coordinated. Israeli security forces said they tracked down some of the assailants and killed seven in a gunbattle, military spokesman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich said.
Defense officials said three of the bodies were booby-trapped. There was no immediate word on whether any of the attackers were captured alive or exactly how many in all were involved.
Israel said the gunmen started out from Gaza and made their way through Sinai, which borders both Israel and Gaza. Egypt and Hamas denied any involvement.
“The incident underscores the weak Egyptian hold on Sinai and the broadening of the activities of terrorists,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a statement. “The real source of the terror is in Gaza and we will act against them with full force and determination.”
It was the deadliest assault in Israel since a Palestinian gunman entered a religious seminary in Jerusalem in March 2008 and killed eight people.
Security in Sinai has deteriorated sharply since February, when longtime leader Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising. Many Israelis saw Mubarak as a source of stability with shared interests in containing Iran and its radical Islamic proxies in the region, such as Hamas. Mubarak also upheld the decades-old peace treaty with Israel.
Last week, Egypt moved thousands of troops into the Sinai peninsula as part of a major operation against al-Qaida inspired militants who have been increasingly active in Sinai since Mubarak’s ouster in February. The militants have taken advantage of the security vacuum caused by the abrupt withdrawal of police forces. Authorities have blamed the militants for brazen attacks on police patrols as well as a string of bombings on a key pipeline carrying natural gas to Israel and Jordan.
Another concern is the potential for a sharp spike in violence as Palestinians prepare to ask the United Nations to recognize them as an independent state next month in response to stalled Mideast peace talks.
The West Bank-based Palestinian Authority is eager to avoid a resumption of hostilities. But Israel is on alert for a variety of scenarios, including attempted attacks from Gaza. The Islamic militant leadership of Gaza does not coordinate with the Palestinian Authority and seems ambivalent about its U.N. bid.
The attacks began when assailants targeted a packed passenger bus driving along a highway about 10 miles north of the Red Sea resort of Eilat, close to the border crossing into Sinai. Within the space of about an hour, along that same road, the attackers opened fire on one more bus and two civilian vehicles, and an army vehicle rushing to the area drove over an explosive device, the military said in a statement.
Around the same time, an undisclosed number of mortar shells were fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli soldiers conducting routine maintenance work on the security fence along the Israel-Egypt border, the statement said.
In all, six civilians and one soldier were killed, said Israel’s southern military commander, Maj.-Gen. Tal Russo.
Israel Radio said a vehicle had followed the bus, and two to three gunmen got out and opened fire with automatic weapons.
The vehicle carrying the assailants fled the scene, and Israeli security forces took off in pursuit, Israel Radio said. Channel 2 reported that two helicopters had been deployed to join the chase.
TV footage showed the bus pulled over by a red, rocky cliff. Windows and a door of the bus were shattered, and soldiers were patrolling the area on foot. Inside the bus, seats were stained with blood and luggage littered the aisle.
“We heard a shot and saw a window explode. I didn’t really understand what was happening at first. After another shot there was chaos in the bus and everyone jumped on everyone else,” passenger Idan Kaner told Channel 2 TV. He said the attack lasted three or four minutes until the bus was able to drive away.
The bus driver interviewed by Channel 2 did not provide details of the attack but appeared calm, smoking a cigarette in the driver’s seat.
After that, an explosive device was detonated under the vehicle of a military patrol called to the scene, and a private car was also attacked.
Roadblocks were thrown up in the area and entrances and exits to Eilat were sealed. Senior Israeli security officials convened in an emergency session at the defense ministry in Tel Aviv.
The military said a “large number” of assailants were working in multiple squads. The Israeli military said three of the gunmen, members of the Hamas-linked Popular Resistance Committees, were behind the attacks, and their primary objective was to kidnap Israeli civilians or soldiers. Militants use captives as bargaining chips, and the PRC was involved in the capture of an Israeli soldier, Sgt. Gilad Schalit, who has been held captive in Gaza for more than five years.
“We are talking about a terror squad that infiltrated into Israel,” said Leibovich, the Israeli military spokeswoman. “This is a combined terrorist attack against Israelis.”
The driver of the bus said he had seen Egyptian soldiers open fire, but the chief Israeli military spokesman, Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai said he was not aware of any Egyptian military involvement.
n Egypt, a senior security official denied that the attackers crossed into Israel from Sinai or that the buses were fired at from inside Egyptian territory.
“The border is heavily guarded,” said a Sinai-based official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the attackers came from Gaza.
“This is specific information. This is not an assessment. This is not an estimation. This is very, very precise information that they came out of Gaza. We have no doubt.” He would not provide more specific details.
Taher Nunu, a spokesman for the Hamas government in Gaza, denied the militants’ complicity.
“Gaza has nothing to do with these attacks in Eilat,” Nunu said.
In November, Israel began erecting a fence along the porous border with Egypt, in part to keep out Islamic militants operating in Sinai. The fence, which is to take up to two years to build, is expected to cover at least 87 miles (140 kilometers) of the 150-mile (250-kilometer) boundary.
Palestinian militants in Hamas-ruled Gaza have fired intermittent barrages of mortar shells into Israel for a decade, even after the Israeli military launched an offensive in the territory in late 2008. But in recent years Israel has not suffered the repeated deadly suicide bombings and shooting attacks of years past. The area of Thursday’s attacks has been largely quiet since Israel and Egypt signed a peace deal in 1979.
IDF strikes Gaza in response to attacks; 6 reported dead
Jerusalem Post – YAAKOV KATZ, REUTERS AND JPOST.COM August 18, 2011
The IDF attacked terror targets in Rafah in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, in response to a three-stage terrorist attack which killed seven Israelis and wounded dozens in the South earlier in the day.
Six Palestinians were killed in the joint IDF and Shin Bet strike.
Among those killed was the chief of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), Kamal al-Nairab. The five others that were killed were also members of the terrorist faction .
Security sources said that the PRC was behind Thursday’s triple attack near Eilat. They added that the operatives had crossed from the Gaza Strip into Egypt and then into Isreal this morning to carry out the attack.
Israel had received intel on the possibility of an attack. For that reason, Israeli special forces, including the elite counter-terror forces, were already stationed in the area.
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said in a press conference just after the airstrike was reported, that the IDF had begun responding in Gaza in the area “where we believe the planners of the attack are based.”
IDF forces were still searching the area around Eilat and the Egyptian border out of concern that there may be terrorists still in the area. Sources said that it is possible that there were as many 20 terrorist in the area, both in Israel and on the Egyptian side of the border.
They added that there may be another terrorist cell hiding in the area. IDF and special police counter-terrorist forces killed seven terrorists during the three coordinated attacks.
Both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Miniater Ehud Barak had earlier said that Israel would strike back at the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza in response to the attacks.
|Northeast Regional Director|
|212-750-4110 • Fax 212-750-4125|
|AIPAC • The American Israel Public Affairs Committee|
|Attend the AIPAC Policy Conference, March 4-6, 2012
Visit www.aipac.org/PC for more information.