Mass Casualty Attack on the Israeli-Egyptian Border Prevented – Initial Report
- At around 20:00 hours on August 5, 2012, a group of terrorist operatives apparently belonging to a global jihad network took control of Egyptian army post in the region of Rafah on the Egyptian-Gaza Strip border. According to an announcement from the High Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces, there were 35 terrorist operatives in the group (Radio Cairo, August 6, 2012) who commandeered two Egyptian APCs. They then drove toward the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Israel-Gaza Strip border, intending to carry out a mass-casualty attack, killing Israeli civilians and members of the Israeli security forces.
- In response, IDF forces attacked the APCs. At 20:15 hours one of the vehicles exploded, the result of IDF fire near the Kerem Shalom crossing. The second APC, which had entered Israeli territory, was attacked and destroyed shortly thereafter by IDF ground and air forces. Two terrorist operatives who abandoned the vehicle and tried to enter Israeli territory were also shot and killed. Four bodies were found on the Israeli side of the border with a great deal of military equipment and weapons. Three bodies were found on the Egyptian side. In addition to the large quantity of explosives found in the APC which entered Israeli territory, six of the eight terrorist operatives had explosive belts strapped to their bodies (IDF Spokesman and Ynet, August 5, 2012).
Weapons belonging to the terrorist operatives who were killed
(Picture from the IDF Spokesman, date, 2012)
- Israeli Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, who visited the site, said that even before a thorough investigation had been conducted, he could say that a terrible catastrophe had been averted. He added that the rapidity of the IDF forces’ response had made it possible to prevent the attack within a quarter of an hour (IDF Spokesman, August 6, 2012). Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who visited the site with the Israeli prime minister and chief of staff, said that the attack had been prevented thanks to the combination of effectiveness and efficiency of military intelligence and the Israel Security Agency, and the preparedness of the command (IDF Spokesman, August 6, 2012).
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak visits the site of the attack
(Picture from the Ministry of Defense, August 6, 2012).
- According to the IDF Spokesman, concrete intelligence information obtained by Military Intelligence and the Israel Security Agency were what enabled the prevention of terrorist operatives’ entering Israeli territory (IDF Spokesman, August 5, 2012). Following the events, the Kerem Shalom crossing was closed, and in the coming days there will be an examination of the security arrangements at the crossing, the pipeline through which merchandise enters the Gaza Strip from Israel.
- Israel sent a communiquÃ© to Egypt expressing condolences for the deaths of Egyptian security force members who were killed in the line of duty. According to the communiquÃ©, the objective of the terrorist attack was to kill Israelis and “to destabilize the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.” Israel stressed that it would continue conducting its affairs with Egypt in the spirit of cooperation (Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, August 7, 2012).
Initial Egyptian Reactions
- Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi declared three days of mourning and said that military funerals would be held for the slain soldiers. In addition, security forces and Egyptian army forces stationed in the Sinai Peninsula were reinforced. On the afternoon of August 6 Morsi, accompanied by Defense Minister Tantawi and Chief of Staff Anan, arrived in El-Arish to visit the border guard unit whose members had been killed and to follow the investigation into the events first hand (Al-Wafd, August 6, 2012).
Mohamed Morsi visits El-Arish
(Picture from Mohamed Morsi’s Facebook page, August 7, 2012).
- As usual, Islamist sources in Egypt accused Israel of the attack. Mohammed Badie, General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, officially accused “the Israeli Mossad” of responsibility for the attack. As “proof” he gave the Israeli warning to its citizens, issued a few days before the attack, not to go to the Sinai Peninsula (Egyptian Television website, August 6, 2012).
- The attack caused Hamas great embarrassment because of its concern that the attack would halt the improvement in the movement’s relations with Egypt, following the strengthening of the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence in Egyptian politics. Immediately after the attack the de-facto Hamas administration and the heads of its security apparatuses met for an emergency consultation.Ismail Haniya, head of the de-facto Hamas administration, denounced the attack on Egyptian soldiers and sent his condolences to Egypt and the families of the slain soldiers. Haniya repeated the false claim that the way the attack was carried out and the early information possessed by Israel “proved” Israeli involvement (Al-Aqsa TV, August 6, 2012).
- Sources within Hamas spoke with the Egyptian leadership and security, and agreed on collaboration and practical steps. It was agreed that all the crossings between the Gaza Strip and Egypt would be closed, including the tunnels, and that there would be an increase in security personnel along the Egyptian-Gaza Strip border (Ministry of the interior of the de-facto Hamas administration’s website, August 6, 2012). The commander of national security for the Hamas administration, Jamal al-Jarrah, went to the Egypt-Gaza Strip border to examine the deployment of the forces (The PIJ’s Paltoday website, August 6, 2012). Ismail Haniya asked Egypt to appoint a permanent joint security committee with his administration to deal with security interests affecting Egypt and the Gaza Strip (Hamas’ palestine-info website, August 6, 2012).
Operatives of the Hamas security apparatuses reinforce patrols after the terrorist attack from the Sinai Peninsula. Right: National security commander Jamal al-Jarrah on the Palestinian side of on the Egypt-Gaza Strip border (Picture from the PIJ’s Paltoday website, August 6, 2012).
- Sources within Hamas strongly denounced the attack and sent their condolences to Egypt and the families of the soldiers while repeating the false and ridiculous claim that Israel had been responsible. The following are some of their comments:
- Taher al-Nunu,Hamas administration spokesman, denounced the attack on the Egyptian soldiers “carried out by Israel,” and expressed sorrow for their deaths. He said that Hamas had not had advance notice that the global jihad operatives who entered Egypt had arrived from the Gaza Strip, and made it clear that Hamas had no information about the attackers. He stressed that Hamas was coordinating security with Egypt to expose the details of the affair (Al-Arabiya, August 5, 2012).
- Ayman Taha, senior Hamas figure, said that the Hamas administration would use all its capabilities to help Egypt preserve its security. He also said that security measures would be taken on the Palestinian side of the border (Al-Sharq, August 6, 2012).
- Ihab al-Ghussin, spokesman for the ministry of the interior of the de-facto Hamas administration, accused Israel and claimed that the Hamas administration was taking all the measures necessary to prevent the recurrence of such an incident (Hamas ministry of the interior website, August 6, 2012).
Right: Ismail Haniya and the ministers of his de-facto administration in the mourning tent set up in Gaza City to express solidarity with the Egyptian people. Left: Senior members of the de-facto Hamas administration led by Ismail Haniya pray in front of the Egyptian embassy in Gaza City (Picture from Hamas’ palestine-info website, August 6, 2012)
Palestinian Authority Reactions
- The Palestinian Authority was somewhat slow to react to the terrorist attack. On the afternoon of August 6 Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for the presidential office, issued a formal statement in which Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership strongly denounced the attack and expressed their condolences to the Egyptian people. According to the announcement, the attack wound not weaken the close relations between the two peoples (Wafa News Agency, August 6, 2012).
- On August 6 Mahmoud Abbas called Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to tell him that the Palestinian people stood side-by-side with the Egyptian people in the struggle against terrorism. Mahmoud Abbas declared that August 7 would be an official day of mourning for all the Palestinian Authority institutions to show solidarity with the Egyptian people (Wafa News Agency, August 7, 2012).
Reactions from Other Terrorist Organizations in the Gaza Strip
- The other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip also condemned the attack and accused Israel of responsibility:
- The Palestinian Islamic Jihadissued a statement condemning the killing of the Egyptian soldiers. Such an attack, it said, served only the interests of Israel, which wanted to cause dissent between Egypt and the Palestinians (The PIJ’s Paltoday website, August 6, 2012). Daoud Shihab, PIJ spokesman, said that Israel made political capital out of the attack and he had no doubt that it was behind the events. He said Palestinians could not possibly have been responsible for the attack and that no Palestinian wanted to harm Egyptians. He called on all the Palestinian organizations to collaborate in investigating the events (Al-Aqsa TV, August 6, 2012).
- The Popular Resistance Committeesdenied any involvement in the events and repeated the false and ultimately ridiculous claim that Israel was behind them. Abu Mujahed, PRC spokesman, sent condolences to the Egyptians and the families of the slain soldiers, stressing that no Palestinian was responsible. He said the attack was an attempt to damage the improving relations between Egypt and the Palestinians (Al-Aqsa TV, August 6, 2012).
The official PRC announcement rejecting all responsibility for the terrorist attack in the Sinai Peninsula (Screenshot from the website of military apparatus of the PRC, August 6, 2012).
Two Global Jihad Terrorist Operatives Attacked in the Southern Gaza Strip
- In a joint IDF-Israel Security Agency action undertaken on the afternoon of August 5, Israeli aircraft stuck two terrorist operatives riding on a motorcycle in the southern Gaza Strip. The operatives belonged to a global jihad network operating in the Gaza Strip. One of them participated in the June 18, 2012 attack on the Egyptian border in which an Israeli civilian was killed. The two had recently been involved in planning another terrorist attack against an Israeli target on the Israeli-Egyptian border in collaboration with other global jihad operatives from the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula (IDF Spokesman, August 5, 2012).
The motorcycle ridden by the two global jihad terrorist operatives
(Picture from the alwatanvoice.com website, August 5, 2012).
- The Palestinian media reported that Iyad Okel Hijazi was killed and Ahmed Salam Ismail was critically wounded when the motorcycle they were riding on was attacked. According to some of the reports, the two belonged to the military apparatus of the Popular Resistance Committees (Paltoday website, Qudsnet website and Al-Aqsa TV, August 5, 2012).
Left: The dead terrorist operative (Picture from the Hamas forum, August 6, 2012). Right: The terrorist operative’s funeral. His body is wrapped in the Al-Qaeda flag (Picture from the Qudsnet website, August 6, 2012).