Gunmen Kill Five in Series of Attacks in Southern Israel

Thursday, 18 Aug 2011 09:15 AM

Five people were killed in a series of attacks near the southern Israeli resort town of Eilat, Army Radio said. Three gunmen were also killed, Channel Two reported.

Gunmen opened fire on a bus traveling to Eilat near the Egyptian border, detonated an explosive device when an Israeli patrol passed by and fired an anti-tank missile at forces, Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai, the chief Israel army spokesman, said. At least 28 people were wounded in the attacks, according to Haim Rafalovski, a spokesman for the Magen David Adom emergency services.

“This was a sophisticated operation carried out by squads of terrorists that infiltrated into Israel,” army spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich said in a phone interview.

The attacks come amid Israeli concerns that Egyptian security forces are losing control of the border area following the February ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Egyptian natural-gas supplies to Israel, which receives about 40 percent of the fuel from Egypt, were disrupted after four separate attacks on the pipeline network between Feb. 5 and July 12.

“This reflects Egypt’s weakening hold on the Sinai and the widening of terror activity,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an e-mailed statement. “The source of terrorist activity is the Gaza Strip and we will act against them with force and determination.”

Helicopters and ambulances arrived at the site of the bus attack and were treating the wounded, who were in light to moderate condition, said Zaki Heller, a spokesman for Magen David Adom.

‘Criminals and Extremists’

Egyptian security forces are conducting an operation to capture “criminals and extremists” responsible for violence in the northern Sinai Peninsula, the state-run Al Ahram newspaper said on Aug. 16. It said that one person was killed in a shootout and 11 others arrested.

“Egyptian security forces have lost control of parts of Sinai and the vacuum has been filled by local Bedouin tribes, some of them linked to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups,” Shlomo Brom, a retired general and senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies located in Tel Aviv University, said by phone. “Israel is going to have to reinforce the border area.”

In August 2010, rockets hit the adjacent port cities of Aqaba in southern Jordan and Eilat in Israel, wounding four people in Jordan.

The TA-25 benchmark started falling after reports of violence and was down 2.8 percent to 1076.6 at 3:45 p.m. in Tel Aviv.

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