|Photo by: Israel Defense Forces|
Eight killed in massive terror assault near Eilat
By YAAKOV KATZ AND YAAKOV LAPPIN
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.
were said to be members of a family on vacation traveling in a car on Route 12
IDF sources said that the terrorists likely planned to abduct
a soldier or a civilian who would then be transferred to the Gaza
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Barak added that Egypt's control of Sinai had become
“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.”