Global jihad terrorists infiltrated into Israel on Sunday night after breaking into an Egyptian military base and stealing two armored jeeps.
One of the vehicles exploded as it rammed through the Kerem Shalom Crossing into Israel and another crossed through, after which it was targeted by an Israel Air Force strike. Simultaneously, dozens of mortar shells rained down on nearby communities.
Al Arabiya reported that 15 Egyptian soldiers were killed in the attack on their base and several more were wounded.
The attack began at around 8 PM, likely in retaliation to an Israeli airstrike earlier in the day against a global jihad terror cell which the IDF said was in the final stages of launching an attack against Israel along the Egyptian border. One terrorist was killed in the strike and another was seriously injured.
The IDF ordered residents of communities in the Eshkol Region to remain inside their homes and shut down Road 232, which runs along the border.
Palestinians reported that the IDF was firing tank shells into southern Gaza, likely part of an effort to suppress the mortar fire. In addition, the Israel Air Force struck back at targets in southern Gaza.
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai told reporters that the IDF was still searching the area to rule out the possibility that additional terrorists remained in Israel. Mordechai said that the IDF has ruled out the possibility that a soldier was kidnapped although it was possible that the attack was aimed at abducting a soldier. The IDF spokesman later said in an interview with Army Radio that at least three terrorists were killed during the infiltration attempt.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday night that the incident put renewed emphasis on the need for Egypt to impose security and prevent terror in Sinai. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy called an urgent meeting of Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to discuss the attack.
Hamas condemned the attack on Egyptian soldiers, calling it an "ugly crime" and adding the group's "deep condolences to the families of the victims and to the leadership and the people of Egypt."
The fresh round of violence came hours after the Israeli Air Force bombed a motorbike in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, striking a global jihad terrorist who the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said had been plotting a terror attack along the Egyptian border for weeks. Palestinian hospital officials said the man, Ahmed Ismail, 22, was seriously injured, and his assistant, Eid Okel Hjazi, a 19-year-old from Rafah, was killed.
Security sources said the terrorist was Ahmed Said Ismail, 22, from the Gaza Strip. They said he was part of the group that carried out the attack in June that killed an Israeli workman, and was in the midst of planning another attack against Israel along the border.
Security sources said it was possible the strike thwarted the terror attack. IDF spokesman Brigadier Gen. Yoav Mordechai said they were in the "advanced and final stages of launching an attack on the Eilat - Egyptian border."
Military sources added that global jihad elements were taking advantage of regional instability, in particular in Egypt and Syria, to create infrastructure that can be used to attack Israel.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a statement praising the IDF and the Shin Bet for the "precise operation" in Gaza.
"All those who intend to harm us should know our long arm will reach them," he said.
Israel is increasingly concerned with the presence of global jihad operatives in the Sinai Peninsula and their ties with Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
Several terror cells are believed to consist of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip as well as global jihad operatives from various Arab countries throughout the Middle East.
Last week, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau urged Israeli tourists in Sinai to return to Israel immediately because terrorists are planning to abduct Israelis from the peninsula.
Herb Keinon and Reuters contributed to this report.
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