The Kerem Shalom crossing. Click to view larger map
More than 10 Egyptian soldiers were killed by “global jihadists” during a complex attack at night on a border crossing between Israel, Egypt, and the Gaza Strip. The terrorists seized two armored personnel carriers, and attacked the border checkpoint. Israeli soldiers and the air force engaged and killed the terrorists who had entered the country. In a separate airstrike in southern Gaza, the Israeli Air Force targeted another global jihadist cell that was plotting to attack Israel from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
The complex attack took place at the Kerem Shalom crossing, which borders the Gaza Strip and Egypt. The “global jihadists,” a term the Israeli Defense Forces uses to describe members of Salafist groups linked to al Qaeda’s network in the region, attacked and overran “an Egyptian military post [near] Rafah, killed over ten Egyptian soldiers and took over two armored personnel carriers,” according to a statement released at the IDF website.
An Egyptian APC armored personnel carrier as it exploded in Israeli territory. Picture from the IDF website.
The terrorists then attacked the Kerem Shalom crossing. One of the armored personnel carriers “exploded at the Israel-Egypt border,” while the Israeli Air Force engaged and destroyed the other APC “as it was entering Israeli territory,” the IDF said.
A number of terrorists dismounted the APC before it was destroyed and entered Israeli territory, where they were then engaged and killed by Israeli soldiers, according to The Jerusalem Post. At least 15 Egyptian soldiers and six terrorists were killed during the fighting.
Israeli troops “continue to thoroughly search the area to ensure no terrorists infiltrated via the border or are currently in Israeli territory,” the IDF stated.
Israeli Air Force strikes a Mujahideen Shura Council cell in southern Gaza
The complex attack took place after “a joint IDF-ISA [Israeli Security Agency or Shin Bet] operation” targeted “a Global Jihad-affiliated terrorist squad in the southern Gaza Strip,” the IDF said in a separate statement.
Ahmed Sai’d Isma’il, a “resident of Tufach,” was a member of the cell that was targeted. It is unclear if he was killed during the attack. The IDF said that Isma’il “was among those responsible for the execution of the terror attack adjacent to the Israel-Egypt border, in which an Israeli civilian was killed, on June 18, 2012.”
The June 18 attack was carried out by the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC) in the Environs of Jerusalem, an al Qaeda-linked group in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. In a recent video that claimed credit for the attack and detailed the raid, the MSC said it was “a gift to our brothers in Qaedat al Jihad and Sheikh Zawahiri” and a retaliation for the death of Osama bin Laden [see LWJ report, Mujahideen Shura Council calls attack in Israel a ‘gift’ to Zawahiri and al Qaeda ‘brothers’].
The IDF said Isma’il plotted with E’id Nadi Ucaal, a “resident of Rafah,” and several other jihadists to carry out a similar attack on Israel. The IDF said that the airstrike “thwarted an additional actual terrorist attack.”
Israel has conducted several airstrikes against “global jihadists” over the past year [see LWJ report, Israel kills leader of al Qaeda-linked Army of Islam in Gaza airstrike].
Al Qaeda-linked groups on the rise in the Sinai and in Gaza
Over the past several years, several Salafist groups professing allegiance or admiration for al Qaeda have popped up in Gaza. And since the so-called Arab Spring began last year, more al Qaeda-linked jihadist groups have formed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
In Gaza, there are six major al Qaeda-affliated jiahdist groups: the Tawhid and Jihad Group in Jerusalem, the Masada al Mujahideen, the Army of Islam, Jund Ansar Allah, Jaish al Ummah, and Jaish al Mu’minun. These groups have clashed with Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated terror group that rules Gaza and is supported by Iran and Syria.
In the Egyptian Sinai, Al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula and its military arm, Ansar al Jihad, the Mujahideen Shura Council, and Jund al Sharia have all emerged since the Arab Spring. The terror groups have conducted attacks against Egyptian forces and a pipeline transporting natural gas to Israel.
On Aug. 1, Jund al Sharia announced its formation, and threatened to carry out attacks against US peacekeeping forces and the Egyptian military and government if its five demands were not met. Jund al Sharia gave the US three days to withdraw from the Sinai and threatened to carry out attacks if its demands were not met [see Threat Matrix report, New jihadist group emerges in the Egyptian Sinai].
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.