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Friday, August 19, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

8-hour Hamas terror spree in Israel, from Sinai, was unimpeded by Egyptian Army

TEL AVIV — Hamas is said to have conducted the bloodiest attack in years on Israel from neighboring Egypt.


Security sources said Hamas-aligned insurgents attacked several vehicles in southern Israel near the border with Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and killed at least seven and injured another 28. The Hamas targets included two passenger buses, a military patrol and a private vehicle, some of which were struck with mortars, anti-tank missiles and light fire on Aug. 18.

"Terrorists fired at a bus on its way to Eilat and fired an anti-tank rocket at another vehicle," the Israeli military said.

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The sources called the attack the bloodiest in years and highlighted the lack of Egyptian government control in Sinai. They said gunmen armed with heavy weapons moved through the Sinai and crossed the border into Israel where they began shooting at cars about 20 kilometers north of the port city of Eilat.

The shooting, most of it from Sinai, lasted more than eight hours, unimpeded by Egyptian Army or security units, Middle East Newsline reported.

"This is a serious terror attack that took place in several locations," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. "The incident shows the weakening Egyptian grip on Sinai and the widening operation of terrorists there. The source of these terror acts is in Gaza and we will act against them with full force."

The Hamas-aligned insurgents were said to have come from the Gaza Strip, who entered Sinai and then headed south toward Eilat. The sources said several squads, believed to comprise at least 25 gunmen, two of them suicide bombers, struck at least four times before the insurgents met Israeli military resistance. Most of the insurgents were believed to have fled to Egypt.

The first attack was believed to have targeted a bus full of soldiers that left Beersheba for Eilat. The sources said two gunmen in a car followed the bus before opening fire.

An Israel Army patrol arrived and was blown up by improvised explosive devices presumably set by the insurgents. At the same time, another insurgency squad fired an anti-tank missile as well as mortars from the nearby Israeli-Egyptian border.

The missile was fired toward the private car and six passengers were killed, the sources said. During the fighting, another Israeli was killed and dozens of others were injured.

No group claimed responsibility. But security sources said the attack reflected the methods of Hamas-aligned militias in the Gaza Strip, particularly the Popular Resistance Committees.

Israel blamed PRC for the attack and hours later conducted an air strike in the Gaza town of Rafah that killed its military commander Kamel Nairab. Nairab was killed with three of his associates, identified as Imad Hamad, Khaled Shaath and Khaled Al Masri. PRC responded with rocket strikes toward Israeli cities.

The attack on southern Israel took place amid a major counter-insurgency operation by the Egyptian Army in Sinai. Israel has allowed more than 3,000 army and police troops to deploy in the demilitarized central and eastern Sinai to search for Islamic insurgents.

"If the terrorist organizations believe that they can attack our citizens and get away with it, they will soon learn how wrong they are," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "We will exact a price, a very heavy price."

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