IDF in heavy firefight with terrorists on Gaza border

Hours after IDF kills global jihad terrorist in air strike, Palestinians fire dozens of mortar shells into Eshkol Council area; in nearby incident at least 13 Egyptian police killed by jihadists in Sinai.

By REUTERS
August 5, 2012 21:10
2 minute read.
IDF soldiers near the Gaza border

IDF soldiers near Gaza border 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)

 
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Dozens of mortars rained down on Israel Sunday night and a heavy firefight broke out between Palestinian terrorists and IDF soldiers near the Kerem Shalom Crossing.

Meanwhile, at least 13 Egyptian policemen were killed and seven wounded in an armed attack on a police station in North Sinai on the border between Egypt and Israel on Sunday, medical and security sources said. Egyptian state television reported that an Islamist militant group was behind the attack.

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It was not clear if the fighting between the IDF and Gaza terrorists was related to the incident in Sinai. The attackers used a stolen police vehicle to launch the attack, security sources said, and fired live ammunition at police officers at the station.

The mortar fire on Israel began at around 8 p.m., 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. Palestinians reported that the IDF was firing tank shells into southern Gaza, likely part of an effort to suppress the mortar fire.

"I'm hearing the explosions all the time, every few seconds there are mortars or Kassams...We don't know of any injuries, thankfully," Eshkol Regional Council spokeswoman Ronit Minaker told The Jerusalem Post.

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 contributed to this report.

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