Sinai smugglers’ attack on IDF troops a ‘game-changer’

‘Sometimes they’ll fire and run away... this time they stayed and fought,’ says Negev police official

IDF troops at Sinai border  (photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF troops at Sinai border
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Wednesday’s attack on IDF troops by drug smugglers crossing from Egypt was a game-changing escalation by the drug gangs working in Sinai and southern Israel, a Negev subdistrict police official said Thursday.
Two soldiers were wounded in the attack on an IDF patrol near Ezuz, and three-six smugglers were killed by troops returning fire, the IDF said.
Officers from the Israel Police anti-smuggling Magen unit are used to wild chases after armed gunmen fleeing into the dunes and wadis along the southern border, but Wednesday’s was a coordinated attack from different directions. The smugglers fired an anti-tank missile and small arms fire from three positions, in a new, bold type of attack.
“Sometimes they’ll fire, but just as a distraction and then they’ll run away. But nothing at this scale or with this force. This time they stayed and fought, it’s a mystery why they did it,” the police official said.
During the attack, a company commander in the Caracal infantry battalion was hit and lightly wounded and another soldier in her jeep was seriously wounded.
Not long after the attack, two suspects were arrested near the border. Both men are residents of the Beduin village of Bir Hadaj in the Negev, known as the smuggling and drug capital of Israel.
On Thursday morning one was brought to court in Beersheba, where his remand was extended for three days. The other suspect, who remains in Soroka Hospital, is to be brought to court Friday.