The headquarters of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in the Sinai was attacked on Friday night by dozens of Bedouin Salafi gunmen, Israel’s Channel 2 News reported.
Dozens of gunmen, in some 50 vehicles, surrounded the base and then 60-70 of them burst in, storming into the base amid heavy gunfire.
First reports of the attack surfaced a little after 8 p.m. local time. Half-an-hour later, Channel 2 reported that Egyptian troops in 11 armored vehicles had arrived at the base, to try to help to restore order.
The TV report said four members of the MFO, all of them officers, were injured. It said three of them had been evacuated to Israel’s Soroka Medical Center, with at least one of them in serious condition. Three of the men were said to be of Colombian nationality. Earlier reports had suggested several fatalities in the attack.
The attackers were described as Bedouin jihadists, possibly affiliated with Al-Qaeda. First reports said Al-Qaeda flags were seen flying at the base after the attack. The attack was reported to have been motivated by Muslim anger at an anti-Islam film, “Innocence of Muslims,” which has sparked anti-Western protests in many Arab cities in recent days.
The TV report said the gunmen broke through the security perimeter of the base — “the first time anything like this has ever happened,” it said — and brought down two observation towers.
US forces dominate the MFO’s 1,650-strong personnel. The MFO’s mission is to oversee the arrangements for securing the Sinai as agreed by Israel and Egypt in their 1979 peace accords.
The attack took place at the MFO’s main North Camp — the MFO’s largest installation and the site of the contingent’s headquarters — 40 kilometers south of El-Arish.
Eleven other countries supply personnel to the MFO: Australia, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, the Republic of the Fiji Islands, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, and Uruguay.
According to the MFO’s website, the North Camp “provides the required facilities for both the operational and logistical needs of the Force and Observers as well as a suitable living environment for military and civilian personnel. Covering approximately 2.7 square kilometers (660 acres), the camp contains such diverse facilities as aviation support buildings, a gymnasium, a theater, barracks, a fire station, administrative buildings, clubs, dining facilities, a Force Exchange, sports fields and a swimming pool.”