The Israeli Defense Force today battled with “terrorists” who were attempting to infiltrate Israel from Egypt and kill civilians. One Israeli soldier was killed and another was wounded during the fighting.
The terrorists, who have not been linked to a specific group, attacked Israeli soldiers who were providing security to construction crews building a fence in the Har Harif area on the border with the Egyptian Sinai, according to a statement released on the IDF website. An Israeli soldier was killed and another was wounded after the terrorists opened fire.
Israeli troops killed three terrorists while returning fire. “At least one of the terrorists was armed with an explosive belt,” the IDF said.
The IDF said it “prevented a large-scale attack on Israeli civilians” and that “no terrorists managed to infiltrate into Israel.”
The attack was likely carried out by one of the numerous Salafi jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda that have sprouted up in the Egyptian Sinai since the so-called Arab Spring led to the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. Groups that have emerged since the Arab Spring include al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula and its military arm, Ansar al Jihad; the Mujahideen Shura Council; and Jund al Sharia. The terror groups have conducted attacks against Israel, UN peacekeepers in the Sinai, Egyptian forces, and a pipeline transporting natural gas to Israel.
The Mujahideen Shura Council claimed credit for a similar attack on June 18 that targeted workers as they were building a fence to secure Israel’s border along the Egyptian Sinai. The cross-border attack targeted a vehicle used by Israeli construction workers. One person was killed in the IED attack, which took place inside Israeli territory.
In a video that claimed credit for the attack, the MSC said the bombing was “a gift to our brothers in Qaedat al Jihad and Sheikh Zawahiri,” the emir of al Qaeda, and a retaliation for the death of Osama bin Laden. The MSC said that Khalid Salah Abdul Hadi Jadullah (Abu Salah al Masri), an Egyptian, and Adi Saleh Abdullah al Fudhayli al Hadhl (Abu Hudhayfa al Hudhali), a Saudi, planted and detonated the IED, and released a video of the men training for the attack.
The most spectacular attack took place on Aug. 5, when a group of fighters launched a complex attack at night on a border crossing between Israel, Egypt, and the Gaza Strip. The terrorists killed 16 Egyptian soldiers and overran their base, seized two Egyptian armored personnel carriers, attacked the border checkpoint, and penetrated more than a half mile into Israeli territory. Israeli soldiers and the air force engaged and killed the terrorists who had entered the country.
Just five days before the attack, Jund al Sharia had 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. The group demanded that the US withdraw from the Sinai within three days [see Threat Matrix report, New jihadist group emerges in the Egyptian Sinai].
On Sept. 14, another jihadist group assaulted a base in the Egyptian Sinai that is manned by international troops, breached the perimeter, and wounded four soldiers. The attackers reportedly raised al Qaeda’s black banner over the base before exiting the base.
The Muslim Brotherhood-led Egyptian government has responded by increasing forces in the area, and claims to have launched a crackdown on the jihadist groups. But the government has also sent supposed former jihadists to negotiate with the terrorists in the Sinai.
For more information on al Qaeda-linked jihadist groups operating in the Egyptian Sina, see LWJ reports, Mujahideen Shura Council calls attack in Israel a ‘gift’ to Zawahiri and al Qaeda ‘brothers’ and Ansar al Jihad swears allegiance to al Qaeda’s emir, and 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.