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Photo by: Israel Defense Forces
Eight killed in massive terror assault near Eilat
By YAAKOV KATZ AND YAAKOV LAPPIN
19/08/2011
IDF sources say terrorists likely planned to abduct a soldier or a civilian who would then be transferred to the Gaza Strip.
 
Israel vowed a harsh response after at least seven Israelis were killed and dozens were wounded in a sophisticated multi-stage terrorist attack, believed to be perpetrated by almost two dozen attackers and launched from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula into southern Israel on Thursday afternoon.

Two of the casualties were identified on Thursday night as St.-Sgt. Moshe Naftali, 22, from Ofra, and a policeman from the YAMAM Counterterrorism Unit named Pascal Avrahami, 49. Avrahami was married and had three children.

Four others were said to be members of a family on vacation traveling in a car on Route 12 near Eilat.

IDF sources said that the terrorists likely planned to abduct a soldier or a civilian who would then be transferred to the Gaza Strip.

The attack was carried out by terror cells affiliated with the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in the Gaza Strip, whose leaders were killed in response to the attacks in an Israel Air Force strike later Thursday afternoon, Israeli and Palestinian sources said.

In the evening, rocket fire from the Gaza Strip intensified and the Iron Dome counter-rocket system intercepted two Grad-model Katyusha rockets fired into Ashkelon.

The attacks commenced at about noon on Thursday, when three terrorists wearing military vests and armed with assault rifles, RPGs, roadside bombs and bomb belts, crossed into Israel near the Netafim Border Crossing along Route 12 between Mitzpe Ramon and Eilat.

The terrorists spread out about 200 meters from one another and began attacking passing vehicles. They first opened fire on Egged Bus 392 which was packed with civilians and soldiers. At least 10 passengers were wounded, most of them lightly to moderately, after the bus driver continued driving.

Moments later, one of the terrorists opened fire at an empty bus that drove by and detonated the bomb belt he was carrying, killing himself and the bus driver. Another terrorist opened fire at a passing car and killed the female driver.

The attacker then launched an RPG at an IAF helicopter but missed.

One of the two remaining terrorists opened fire at a passing car, killing four people. An IDF jeep from the Golani Brigade then arrived at the scene and ran over the terrorist, killing him.

Another IDF jeep arrived, was hit by a roadside bomb and as the soldiers got out of the vehicle, the remaining terrorist opened fire, killing Naftali.

Additional IDF soldiers and members of the police’s elite YAMAM Counterterrorism Unit who arrived at the scene, located the remaining terrorist and killed him.

Shots were then fired at the soldiers from within Egypt. The soldiers returned fire and at one point crossed the border by several meters, and killed the two terrorists.

The Egyptian military told the IDF that its soldiers also killed two terrorists in the Sinai.

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) had obtained intelligence about the attack several days earlier and for that reason the YAMAM as well as additional IDF units were already deployed along the border.

“If we hadn’t had these units nearby, the results would have been worse,” a senior IDF officer said.

Israel pointed a finger at Cairo, which it said had lost control over the Sinai, an area now flooded with terrorist cells from al- Qaida, Hamas and other smaller organizations like the PRC and Islamic Jihad.

“It is clear that the terrorists came from Gaza and it is clear that they move freely from Gaza to the Sinai,” a senior IDF source said Thursday night. “The only way to stop this would be for the Egyptians to be present along the border and to act more decisively.”

In the evening, as Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz were giving a press conference, another attack took place in which gunmen opened fire at Israeli security forces deployed along the border.

During that incident, a Border Police unit, while taking part in a sweep of the area in which terrorists were hiding, came under fire. Avrahami was shot and killed. As Gantz and Barak were speaking, ambulances rushed down the road behind them to attend to the wounded border policemen.

OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Tal Russo said that security forces had been on high alert for terror attacks coming from Sinai to Israel. Russo said that in the first attack, three terrorists with suicide bomb vests, grenades and machine guns opened fire on a bus, then went northwards and opened fire on a civilian vehicle and another bus.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was expected to convene a meeting of his security cabinet late Thursday night to consider Israel’s response.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak described the attack as a painful and severe incident and sent his condolences to relatives and loved ones of the victims. Barak said residents of Eilat can continue with their normal lives.

“We won't always be able to prevent an attack, but the IDF will work tirelessly to protect the people of Israel,” he said.

Barak added that Egypt's control of Sinai had become shaky.

“The incident shows the weakening Egyptian grip on Sinai and the widening operation of terrorists there,” he said. “The source of these terror acts is in Gaza and we will act against them with full force.”
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