sinai blast 298 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Terror struck again in the Sinai on Wednesday when two suicide bombers blew up near a base of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), some five kilometers from the Rafah terminal in the Gaza Strip, just two days after terrorists detonated three bombs at a Sinai beach resort and killed 24 people.
[For a Jerusalem Online video of events click here]
Just before the attack, Palestinian Authority policemen thwarted a massive car bomb attack at the Karni crossing into Gaza. The IDF evacuated and shut down the site after shots were heard on the Gaza side of the terminal.
PA officials said they succeeded in thwarting an attack in which two cars, one packed with close to half a ton of explosives, tried to infiltrate the terminal. Five PA policemen were reported to have been wounded in clashes that erupted during their attempt to stop the cars. The second car was filled with gunmen who planned to use the explosives to blow a hole in the wall of the terminal, to run through and begin shooting.
Minutes later, in what security officials said appeared to have been a coincidence, two suicide bombers struck near the MFO's Al-Ghoura base, lightly wounding two Egyptian policemen and two MFO members. The strike on the MFO was the second in less than a year. In August, a roadside bomb blasted a vehicle belonging to peacekeepers, lightly wounding two Canadians. The MFO is made up of 1,800 foreigners who monitor the 1979 Egypt-Israeli peace treaty.
At Karni, three PA officers opened fire on the cars as they approached the crossing, prompting two unidentified gunmen in the car to return fire. Three PA officers and two gunmen were wounded. Two other gunmen were arrested.
Inspecting the car, PA security personnel found canisters filled with 300 kilos of explosives and fuel. Several hours later, PA security officers carried the canisters a short distance away and detonated them.
There was no claim of responsibility, but PA security officials suspect the Popular Resistance Committees were behind the attempt. Last week, Jamal Abu Samhadanah, the leader of the group, was appointed director-general of the PA Interior Ministry by PA Interior Minister Said Siam, setting off a crisis between the Hamas-led government and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
In Sinai, the double suicide attack was carried out by local Beduin, an Egyptian Interior Ministry official told The Jerusalem Post.
"The people who launched the attack in Dahab and this attack are the same people," the official said. "They are not al-Qaida. They are Beduin. We don't know if they are all from the north."
The ministry said the attack took place when two Egyptian border policemen drove away from the Al-Ghoura airport in northern Sinai "after finishing the paperwork of two Multinational Force observers who had just arrived."
MFO officials said Wednesday night that the multinational peacekeeping force had been on high alert over the past few months due to the tense situation in the region. "We raised the level of alert to protect the personnel," one official said.
In West Bank violence on Wednesday, troops shot and killed an Islamic Jihad fugitive during an arrest raid near Jenin. The suspect, the army said, was carrying a rifle and a handgun and had opened fire at the troops. None of the soldiers were wounded.
Soldiers, the army revealed on Wednesday, thwarted a suicide bombing on Holocaust Remembrance Day when they arrested three Tanzim operatives in a village north of Nablus as they were making their way through the West Bank hills toward the Green Line. They were in possession of an explosives belt weighing six kilograms.
Orly Halpern and AP contributed to this report.