Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday visited the site of a terror attack that took place the night before near the Egyptian border, saying that only Israeli security can protect the country’s citizens.
“I think it’s clear that Israel and Egypt have a common interest in keeping the border quiet,” said Netanyahu. “Having said that, it becomes clear time after time that when it comes to the safety of Israeli citizens, Israel must and can rely only on itself. No one can fulfill this role except the IDF and different Israel security forces of Israel and we will continue to conduct ourselves like that.”
Barak said the eight terrorists killed by Israeli forces were armed with suicide belts and could have caused major damage inside Israel.
“There is no doubt that if they had entered a town here or an army bases by surprise, they could have caused very serious damage. Once again it was proven here how acute intelligence, a quick response, and operational capabilities, can make all the difference,” he said. “I appreciate that this will not be the last time that we come across attempts to harm us. … I hope that we will have many more successes of this type, but we must also stay vigilant for the opposite.”
On Sunday night, Israeli troops averted a major terror attack on the Kerem Shalom border crossing on the Israel-Egypt-Gaza border, during which Islamists planned to infiltrate Israeli territory. Sixteen Egyptian border policemen were killed by the terrorists. No Israelis were harmed.
Netanyahu and Barak were briefed by Maj. Gen. Tal Russo, who heads the IDF’s Southern Command, and Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen. Standing next to a burned-out Egyptian armored vehicle the terrorists had commandeered, Netanyahu praised the IDF and Shin Bet officials for thwarting what he said would have been a “very large” terror attack. He also expressed sorrow for the Egyptian servicemen who were killed during the incident.
Earlier in the day, Barak said he hoped the attack would spur Egypt to clamp down on terrorists in the Sinai.
President Shimon Peres, who was visiting in Greece, offered his condolences to the Egyptian nation following the attack, Maariv reported on Monday.
“Terror strikes hit everyone without discrimination,” Peres said during a meeting the Greek President Karolos Papoulias. “I want to extend my sincere condolences to the Egyptian people for the needless loss of human life. Both sides (Egypt and Israel) have an interest in a quiet border, and Israel will continue to ensure a quiet border in the South.”
Peres praised the Israeli security forces for their readiness, intelligence information, and quick response, that prevented a serious incident on the Israeli side of the border.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also offered its condolences in the wake of the attack.
“Israel wishes to convey its condolences to Egypt and to the Egyptian people following the killing of security forces servicemen by terrorists,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. “This barbaric attack has caused the death Egyptians, and was meant to slay Israelis as well. Moreover, it aimed to shatter the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. Peace between the two countries has been, and still is, an interest shared by both peoples; Israel will continue to act in a spirit of cooperation with Egypt in order to preserve this vital interest and ensure security and stability in the region.”