Five dead in new escalation on Israel - Gaza - egypt border

Published June 18th, 2012 - 02:32 GMT
Israeli tank
Israeli tank

A commando infiltration into Israel from Egypt Monday morning left three dead, two gunmen and an Israeli worker, pushing the Jewish state to call on Cairo to strengthen its control over the Egyptian Sinai peninsula. At the same time, two fighters of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad were killed by an Israeli airstrike in northern Gaza. The Israeli army said it targeted a group "responsible for recent fire into Israel".

The gunmen from Egypt have attacked a convoy of vehicles carrying Israelis working in the construction of the border fence with the Egyptian Sinai, opening fire around at around 6:00 (3:00 GMT), the army said. "Three armed terrorists had entered Israel from Egypt and were waiting on the Israeli side," said Avital Leibovich, a spokesman for the Israeli army. The vehicles were hit by an explosive device and shooting from RPGs and Kalashnikovs. One vehicle was overturned, causing the death of a worker, he said. Israeli soldiers, who rushed to the scene, "spotted the cell and opened fire. There was a huge explosion," he added, noting that one of the gunmen wore explosives on him.

"We do not exclude that part of the cell is back to the Egyptian side, as it happened in August 2011, added the spokesman, referring to a previous attack from the Sinai. Infiltrators from the Sinai then carried out a triple ambush some 20 kilometers north of Eilat, killing eight Israelis, including a soldier and a policeman. During that incident, Israeli forces had killed seven gunmen and five Egyptian policemen, which sparked a crisis between the two countries. Israel has blamed the attacks on the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), an armed group in Gaza, who had denied.

On Monday, the Israeli government urged the Egyptian authorities to regain control of the Sinai, which is largely beyond the control of the security forces since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. "There is no doubt that the situation in the Sinai has become an issue and what happened today is another step in the escalation (...). I think it s' is a big challenge "for the new president coming out of the polls after the election on Saturday and Sunday, said Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, Shaul Mofaz. "I hope and believe we can reach a security dialogue with the Egyptian military," he added.

"Regardless of whoever wins the election in Egypt, we expect him to assume international commitments made by Egypt, including the peace treaty and security arrangements in the Sinai, in order to bring a speedy end to these attacks, "stressed the Minister of Defense Ehud Barak.

The incidents have multiplied in recent days at the border between Israel and Gaza, and on the border with Egypt. On Sunday, eight mortar shells were fired from Gaza against Israeli soldiers across the border, causing no injuries. On the night between Sunday and Monday, five Palestinians were injured in two Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.


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