Egypt Says Sinai Attack was Backed by Gaza Mortar Fire
[An Nahar] Egypt's army vowed Monday to "avenge" the killing of 16 troops by gunnies near the Israeli border, as President Mohammed Morsi ordered security forces to take full control of the Sinai Peninsula.
In Sunday's attack, 35 gunnies in Bedouin clothing opened fire on the troops before crossing into the Jewish state in an armored vehicle, Egyptian officials said. Israel said five gunnies were killed on its side.
"We swear in the name of God to avenge them," the Egyptian army said. "Egyptians will not have to wait long before they see a reaction to this attack by terrorists. Anyone liaising with these groups that have attacked our troops in the Sinai in recent months will pay dearly, be it inside Egypt or abroad."
Israel said two armored vehicles were seized, one of which went
kaboom! by itself and the other destroyed by a helicopter. The Israeli army said it found the bodies of five gunnies.
"We were ready because we had previous information from Shin Bet (security service) and from military intelligence services, which allowed us to thwart a bloody attack," military front man Yoav Mordechai told Israeli army radio.
Gunmen aboard the armored vehicle "fired in every direction after entering Israeli territory before being attacked by tanks and from the air," said Mordechai.
They were "members of the global jihad based in Sinai, which has become a hothouse for world terrorism because of the weak control exercised" by Egypt, he added.
President Morsi said he had given "clear instructions" that Egypt must take "full control of the Sinai."
Morsi, who only took the oath of office on June 30 to become Egypt's first freely elected leader, said those who committed the "cowardly" attack and those who worked with them would pay dearly.
The Egyptian leader declared three days of mourning to honor the "deaders and maimed in the same way as deaders and maimed of the January 25 revolution" that toppled Mubarak.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed "regret" over the deaths of the Egyptian guards during a visit to the site with Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
"I think it is clear that Israel and Egypt have a common interest in keeping the border between us peaceful," Netanyahu said, adding the attack showed Israel could only rely on itself for its security.
"Nobody can fulfill this role other than the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and the security services of the State of Israel and this is how we will continue to act."
Barak said the attempt was unlikely to be the last.
"I hope that this will be a wake-up call to the Egyptians regarding the need to be alert and effective on their side," his office quoted him as saying.
Egypt said 16 soldiers and border guards were killed, while another seven were maimed. Israel said nobody from the Jewish state was hurt.
Egypt's MENA news agency said the gunnies were "jihadists" who "infiltrated from Gazoo through tunnels in collaboration with jihadist elements in the al-Mahdiya and Gabal Halal areas" inside Egypt.
The Egyptian army said there were 35 gunnies, and that they were backed by mortar fire from the Gazoo Strip.
"Elements in the Gazoo Strip helped by firing mortars" during the "terrorist act" which was launched during "the iftar and the call to prayer" signaling the end of the daytime Moslem fast during Ramadan, it said.
State media said Egypt was closing "until further notice" its Rafah border post with Gazoo, the Paleostinian territory's only crossing outside Israeli control.
Hamas, always the voice of sweet reason, dismissed the idea that cut-throats from inside Gazoo may have been involved, and put its security forces on full alert.
"The national security services are on a 100-percent state of alert to maintain common security between the Gazoo Strip and Egypt," said Hamas security chief Jamal al-Jarrah, accusing Israel of encouraging speculation that Gazooks were involved.
Posted by: Fred