Seven Israelis dead in series of attacks by Gaza militants

Last Updated: Thursday, August 18, 2011 - 22:50

Jerusalem: At least six people were killed
and dozens injured when terrorists launched multi-pronged
attacks in southern Israel, prompting the Jewish state to
warn that it would respond "with all our strength and
determination."

Defence Minister Ehud Barak blamed elements from
Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip for the attacks in Eilat, close to
the border with Egypt.

Barak vowed that his country would respond "with all our
strength and determination" to the attack that prompted the
authorities to declare a state of high alert across the
country.

Terrorists armed with heavy weapons, guns and explosives
launched three attacks targeting a passenger bus, a military
patrol and a private car in Eilat.

"This was a grave terror attack at multiple scenes. It
reflects Egypt`s failing hold on Sinai and the rise of terror
elements," Barak said, adding, "This terror attack originated
from Gaza. We will exhaust all measures against the
terrorists."

The attacks forced the authorities to impose roadblocks
and shut down the airport deploying hundreds of troops.

In the first incident, Egged bus number 392, travelling
from Israel`s southern city of Be`ersheba to the Red Sea
resort city of Eilat was ambushed by a three-man terror cell,
security and rescue officials said.

The three attackers opened fire from a sedan on the bus,
which carried several soldiers returning to their bases. The
bus driver continued driving under fire, preventing the gunmen
from inflicting more damage.

Security forces as well as Magen David Adom emergency
services` teams carried the injured to Yoseftal Medical Centre
in Eilat.

The first attack was soon followed by a second incident,
involving multiple roadside bombs and rocket fire at IDF
forces patrolling the Israel Egypt border fence.

A third incident was reported at around 1 pm local time,
involving yet another shooting on a bus and a private vehicle
travelling south. Five people reportedly suffered mortal
wounds in the attack.

According to the Israel Defence Forces spokesperson`s
unit, soldiers were among the wounded in these incidents.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt Gen Benny Gantz and Police
Commissioner Yohanan Danino were on the way to GOC Southern
Command to discuss with Southern Command Chief Major-General
Tal Russo on immediate steps to control the situation.

All of the roads leading to Eilat were shut down as
security forces started canvassing the area in search of
suspects.

IDF aircrafts as well as extensive Counter-Terror Unit
forces were also assisting in the search.

The Eilat Police have ordered an emergency deployment in
the area, and a situation room has been set up at the Yoseftal
Hospital, which has declared the incident a mass casualty
event.

Egyptian security forces have been alerted and are
reportedly conducting a simultaneous manhunt. The Ovda
Airfield has been meanwhile closed to all flights.

Israel`s leading news portal Ynet reported that Jordan
had passed a message to Israel suggesting their intelligence
indicated that a terror cell was plotting such an attack
shortly before the attacks. The warning was in tow with
Israel`s defence establishment`s indications of a clear and
present threats of terror attacks in the southern sector.

Some security sources pointed out that less than 10 per
cent of the security fence between Israel and Egypt has been
built despite the approval of the budget over 18 months ago.

Segments near Netafim and Carmit are still open, left
completely insecure and without the promised security fence,
they said. So far the Israel Defence Forces have been trying
to manage the situation by monitoring the area with cameras
and radar scans.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved a budget of
around USD 28 million in January 2010 for a construction plan
to build a security fence at two segments along the Egyptian
border, one near the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah and
another near the southern city of Eilat.

The fence was expected to be completed by the end of 2012
to cover some 230 kilometres. So far a fence has only been
build along 20 kilometres and by the end of 2011 officials
expect to finish work on a total of 100 kilometres only.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, August 18, 2011 - 15:46

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