Four killed as militants attack Israeli soldiers at Egypt border


AN ISRAELI soldier and three Islamic militants have been killed in a clash on the Israel-Egypt border.

According to an initial investigation carried out by the Israeli army, the gunmen opened fire when a number of soldiers left their post to offer water to African migrants who had reached the border after crossing the Egyptian Sinai.

Three militants emerged from behind a cliff and opened fire on Israeli troops who were in the area to protect construction workers building the new security fence which will run along the entire 266km border. The army said the militants had monitored the group of 15 Africans and opened fire when several soldiers left their post to offer them water.

The incident took place yesterday on a mountainous area on the Israel-Egypt border, about half way between the Gaza Strip and the Red Sea resort of Eilat.

Israeli troops, who were on a mission to prevent African migrants crossing illegally into Israel, were dispatched to engage the militants. The army said the gunmen were wearing explosive belts and one of the belts was detonated in the ensuing exchange of fire.

Army spokesman Brig Gen Yoav Mordechai said the gunmen were heavily armed. “They were on a major killing spree, but were killed within 15 minutes from the moment they fired the first shot.”

A second soldier was wounded.

Egyptian security sources said the attackers were Salafist fundamentalists and likely belonged to a global Islamic Jihad group, either the Mujahideen Shura Council, active in Sinai, or to the Palestinian Ansar Beit al-Makdas organisation.

Egyptian intelligence officials said the attackers had crossed the border and that one blew himself up inside Israel.

The Egyptian officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an intelligence team had been dispatched to Israel to inspect the bodies of the militants and was looking to take them back to Egypt for further investigation.

Egypt also boosted security on their side of the border and carried out searches. Security in the Sinai deteriorated after Hosni Mubarak was ousted as president last year.

This was the fourth cross- border attack in a year and came despite the security crackdown in the Sinai launched by Egyptian forces after militants killed 16 Egyptian border guards in August.

Hundreds of Egyptian troops have been engaging Islamic gunmen in the Sinai in recent weeks.

Israel hopes the new fence, designed to keep out both militants and African migrants, will be completed by the end of the year.