A Crumbling Egypt Opens Door to Terrorist Attacks

Today, terrorists from Gaza carried out a coordinated assault on Israel, killing eight Israelis. Haaretz recounts the basic facts:

Eight Israelis were killed and 30 more wounded during a well-planned terror attack along the Israeli-Egyptian border Thursday.

The attack was planned in the Gaza Strip by the Popular Resistance Committees and perpetrated by terrorists who crossed from Gaza into Sinai via smuggling tunnels. They then traveled some 200 kilometers to reach an area of the border protected only by a tattered wire fence, about 15 kilometers north of Eilat. …

The assault began around noon, when three terrorists armed with rifles, grenades and explosives entered Israel from Egypt and stationed themselves at intervals of about 200 meters along the highway to Eilat, Route 12, at a stretch of road that runs very close to the border. At 12:30 P.M., they opened fire on an Egged Bus 392, wounding seven passengers, causing light to moderate injuries. Most of those injured were soldiers.

A few minutes later, an empty bus and several cars arrived. The terrorists opened fire again, and when the bus stopped, one of the terrorists ran up to the bus and activated his explosive belt, killing himself and the driver.

The shooting killed four occupants of one car, plus the driver of another.

The four occupants were a mother and father and their four- and six-year-old children.

At that point, the first soldiers arrived in two vehicles. One vehicle ran down one of the terrorists, killing him. Soldiers in the second vehicle opened fire on the third terrorist. One soldier, Staff Sgt. Moshe Naftali of Ofra, was killed in the ensuing gun battle.

Additional police and army forces then arrived on the scene and killed the third terrorist. They also opened fire on two additional terrorists who were waiting on the Egyptian side of the border. … The two terrorists in Sinai were killed after policemen from Yamam, the special anti-terror unit, pursued them a short distance into Egyptian territory.

Ynet and the Jerusalem Post have more. Israeli officials say that they had killed the leaders of the terrorist group that launched the attacks.

Barry Rubin considers the role that turmoil in Egypt played in the attacks:

This isn’t just another terrorist attack—it’s a major escalation, a new phase in the Arab-Israeli conflict in two ways. First, it is the bitter fruit of the U.S.-backed downfall of the government of President Husni Mubarak in Egypt, opening the Egypt-Israel border as a new front in the war. Second, it is probably the first successful al-Qaida attack on Israel. (The Palestinian Popular Committees, a Gaza-based al-Qaida affiliate is the prime suspect.) …

According to several eyewitnesses, the attackers were wearing Egyptian army uniforms, a detail which if true is going to be a major issue. Stolen or sold or provided by low-level sympathizers in the Egyptian army? And the site of the attack was near an Egyptian army outpost which–so far as we know now–didn’t do anything about it. One eyewitness said a terrorist was firing from an Egyptian army position. Again, these details will have to be checked by an investigation. …

Have no doubt. This is not just an isolated incident but the opening of a new phase. It will get worse. At a minimum, Israel will have to devote a lot more of its limited resources to guarding the Egypt-Israel border. An important question is how decisively will the Egyptian military react and how supportive of the attack will be Egyptian public opinion.

Given U.S. policy, nothing can be expected from Washington except words of dismay. …

both Hamas and Fatah sites feature rejoicing at the killing of Israelis. Nobody is critical of the attacks. One Fatah site has such remarks as: “”Our Lord is with the heroes”; [I] call for resistance in the Gaza with rocket fire and suicide bombings and the Glory of God and His Messenger”; “Tribute to the Heroes of each attack and no matter what their affiliation”; “God is great and victory is coming”

This attack may indeed be only the opening round.

Stay tuned.

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