Barak: Attack must serve as wake-up call for Egyptians

Defense minister says IDF killed eight terrorists, prevented much larger incident on southern border

Benny Gantz inspects a burnt out personnel carrier after the August 5 attack on the Israel-Egypt border. (photo credit: IDF Spokesman's Unit)
Benny Gantz inspects a burnt out personnel carrier after the August 5 attack on the Israel-Egypt border. (photo credit: IDF Spokesman's Unit)

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that IDF forces’ quick response thwarted a larger terror attack in the south, and hoped the event would spur Cairo to crack down on terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula.

Barak spoke to the Knesset Defense Committee a day after a group of terrorists killed 16 Egyptian police near Rafah. The terrorists were then killed by Israeli forces when they commandeered two Egyptian armed carriers and attempted to infiltrate Israel. Israel said it had prior intelligence about the attack.

“It was a very successful response, sharp and to the point and a very good operation by the Shin Bet [security service],” he said. “In my opinion, a far larger attack was foiled and this will perhaps serve as a wake-up call for the Egyptians to take matters into their own hands.”

Egypt has vowed a forceful response.

Barak said eight terrorists were killed when they tried to overrun Israel Defense Forces positions near the Kerem Shalom crossing between Gaza and Israel Sunday night.

One of the vehicles exploded near an unmanned IDF pillbox while trying to bust a hole in the border, Barak said, adding that it would remain unmanned for security reasons.

The other vehicle began traveling on an Israeli road and was hit by an Israeli aircraft. Two terrorists fled on foot and IDF forces on the ground hit them, Barak said.

Barak added that it was not clear whether other terrorists could still be in the area.

Nevertheless, on Monday the army gave the go-ahead for residents of the area to leave their homes, after they were told to stay indoors Sunday night.

Also Monday morning, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz toured the area of the attack and spoke with soldiers involved.

Israeli officials said they had a prior warning about the attack and were therefore at the ready in confronting the terrorists. Israel and the US had issued travel warnings urging citizens to leave the Sinai in the days before the attack.

Egypt responded to the attack by vowing to regain control in the Sinai, which has becoming increasingly volatile in the last year. Egyptian forces reportedly surrounded the border town of Rafah, near the site of the attack, to search for terrorists.

Egypt’s new President Mohammed Morsi accused the gunmen of “treason” and said they would “pay dearly” for Sunday’s attack, which the Israeli military said also involved plans to abduct Israeli soldiers.

The attack is the latest in a series of incidents on the border with Egypt, as terror groups have attempted, sometimes successfully, to wreak havoc with Israel’s south.

Terrorists, taking advantage of the security vacuum that followed president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster last year, have attacked Israel from the desert peninsula three times over the past year, including a cross-border assault that killed eight people last August. Israel contends al-Qaeda operatives have infiltrated the area, as well as Palestinian terrorists who have crossed over from Gaza, and it is building a fence along the border with Egypt to avert attacks and block the entry of illegal African migrants.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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