Washington, Sept 21 - Terrorists, including one wearing a suicide vest, attacked Israeli soldiers building a security fence along the Egyptian border today (Sept. 21) and tried to enter Israel, but the Israeli army blocked them and killed the three attackers. One Israeli soldier died and one was wounded in the firefight, the IDF said.
The IDF said in a statement it had foiled a major terrorist attack: “A number of terrorists opened fire on an IDF artillery force stationed along the border to protect the construction of the border fence. A force of the Karkal (Wildcat) Battalion, which was stationed nearby, engaged the terrorist squad.”
The Jerusalem Post reported that the terrorists were heavily armed and that during the firefight, a suicide bomb belt around one of the terrorists went off.
The IDF statement added: “According to initial findings, the IDF force successfully prevented a large-scale attack on Israeli civilians. No terrorists managed to infiltrate into Israel.”
The Sinai Peninsula, which is part of Egypt, has turned into a largely lawless zone since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak early last year. Intelligence reports say organizations, some linked to al-Qaeda, are trying to establish a presence there, forming alliances with fellow terrorists in Gaza.
The incident occurred in a mountainous area of the border where Israel has yet to complete building its security fence. Defense officials said the plan was to finish building the fence in that area within two months.
In August, terrorists killed 16 Egyptian soldiers at a border post and then tried to crash an armored vehicle across the border fence to attack Israelis. IDF forces stopped them and killed the terrorists. That was the most serious in a string of recent attacks that has focused attention of the growing threat the region poses to both Israel and Egypt.
In July, terrorists opened fire on a bus carrying soldiers near the Israeli-Egyptian border. There were no injuries but the bus was damaged. In June, a civilian was killed in a combined shooting and mortar attack while working on the border fence. A previously unknown Jihadi group called “Magles Shoura al-Mujahddin”posted a video claiming responsibility. It said it was linked to al-Qaeda and planned more attacks to kill Israelis.
On August 18, 2011, eight Israelis were killed on a desert border road near Eilat by gunmen who infiltrated from the Gaza Strip via Egypt's neighboring Sinai desert. Seven of the attackers were killed by Israeli forces and Egypt said five of its men died in the crossfire. The State Department’s annual report on terrorism worldwide released last month said that the situation in the vast and sparsely populated Sinai Peninsula has approached a crisis point.
“The smuggling of humans, weapons, cash, and other contraband through the Sinai into Israel and Gaza created criminal networks with possible ties to terrorist groups in the region. The smuggling of weapons from Libya through Egypt has increased since the overthrow of the Qaddafi regime,” the report said.
Mubarak’s ouster in early 2011 created a power vacuum in Sinai that was quickly filled by jihadists. According to Michael Herzog of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, they joined local Bedouin, many of whom felt alienated from the central government.
These Bedouin, especially those in the northeast and the mountainous central areas, are well armed and increasingly influenced by extreme Islamist ideology. They cooperate closely with Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups from Gaza, which have established a foothold in Sinai by recruiting local tribesmen for various operations.