An Islamic terror group responded to an airstrike over the weekend that killed four armed members preparing an attack on Israel by calling on Egyptians to unite against the common enemy, the Jews in occupied Palestine.
The Mujahideen Shura Council of Jerusalem, a Salafist terror group based in Sinai, made the call to arms in a notification circulated in Egyptian media, Ynet reported on Sunday.
“The treacherous attack, that could not have been carried out without coordination with the Egyptian army, should remind the citizens of Egypt that the primary enemy is the Jews squatting on the occupied Palestinian land,” the statement said.
On Saturday the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis terror group, which is linked to Al-Qaeda, said in a statement posted on a militant website that an Israeli drone crossed into Egyptian airspace the day before and killed four fighters as they were preparing a cross-border rocket strike into Israel. It said the dead were from Egyptian Sinai tribes and that the rocket squad’s leader escaped.
The drone strike came a day after Israel briefly prevented landings at an airport in the Red Sea resort of Eilat on Thursday. While Israeli officials would only say the closure came out of unspecified security concerns, an Egyptian security official told the Associated Press that officials warned Israel about the possibility of rocket strikes. The official said Egyptian authorities received intelligence suggesting terrorist groups planned to fire missiles Friday at Israel, as well as at locations in northern Sinai and the Suez Canal.
Egyptian officials initially said an Israeli drone carried out the Friday Sinai attack, but an official quoted by the state media later claimed an Egyptian helicopter was responsible.
Israel maintained an official silence about the strike, suggesting that if the Jewish state was involved, it might be trying to avoid embarrassing the Egyptian military.
Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that Israel wouldn’t let “rumors and speculation” harm the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. The late Saturday statement by Yaalon appeared to be an attempt to downplay reports that an Israeli drone killed the four militants in a cross-border strike into Egypt.
Former head of Israel’s National Security Council Giora Eiland said in a Sunday interview on Army Radio that Israel should not become involved in Egypt’s crackdown on Islamic terror groups in the Sinai Peninsula.
“It is a matter of Egyptian authority and Egyptian honor,” he said. “Especially when the Egyptian army is vigorously active the last thing that we should say is they aren’t doing enough and so we are going to take things into our own hands.”
Eiland added that the common desire to rid the Sinai of terror groups is a joint interest of Egypt and Israel the likes of which “there has not been for years.”
Since the July coup that ousted former president Mohammed Morsi the Egyptian army has embarked on an increasingly determined military campaign against Sinai terror groups that have been responsible for a string of attacks on Egyptian border guards, police, and army units.
Egyptian daily Al-Aharam reported Sunday that Hamas has sent over 600 fighters to the Sinai via smuggling tunnels since Morsi was removed from power. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, to which Morsi belongs.
In April the Mujahideen Shura Council of Jerusalem took responsibility for two rockets fired at Eilat. Less than two weeks later an IAF airstrike on Gaza targeted and killed Hithem Ziad Ibrahim Masshal, who was said to be a senior figure in the organization.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.