Southern Israel was attacked by four different terrorist cells today resulting in at least seven dead six were civilians (two young children aged 6 and 4) and one was a soldier (Staff Sergeant Moshe Naftali, a 22 year-old soldier from Ofra). At least another 40 have been injured.

The coordinated terrorist attack hit buses taking vacationers to the Israeli resort city of Eilat It is believed that the attack originated from Gaza but the terrorists infiltrated from Egypt an indication that unlike the Mubarak government, it is open season on terrorists using the Sinai peninsula as a terrorist staging ground. In fact some of the murderers were wearing Egyptian Army uniforms.

According to sources inside of Israel the attacks began when gunfire was opened at an Israeli bus. 14 people were injured as a result and evacuated to nearby hospitals. Simultaneously, fire was opened on an additional bus and two civilian vehicles, injuring several people.

Another terrorist was wearing a homicide belt, blew himself up near IDF soldiers arriving at the scene a short while afterwards, injuring several of them.

Apparently (according to the Prime Minister’s office) the purpose of the attack was to kidnap an Israeli solder.

The Popular Resistance Committee (PRC)  has claimed credit for the attack. The  PRC,  is a terrorist group which calls for a worldwide Islamic Caliphate.  Its actions have at times been funded by  al-Qaeda, which in recent times has created a presence in Gaza and the West Bank and the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt

Below is a chronology of the terrorist incursion (in Israeli time)

12 p.m. – At least three terrorists open fire at Egged Bus 392 traveling on Road 12 between Eilat and Mitzpe Ramon. The terrorists, apparently infiltrated into Israel from Egypt and wore what appeared to be military uniforms. Some 14 people are injured.

12:30 p.m. – An IDF vehicle that arrived at the scene starts chasing after the terrorists who detonated a roadside bomb next to the vehicle, injuring a number of soldiers. Mortar shells and light gunfire follow, possibly fired from terrorists still in Egypt.

1:30 p.m. – Another cell of terrorists fire an anti-tank missile at a civilian vehicle and open fire at another bus. Five people were killed in this attack.

2:00-4:00 p.m. – IDF soldiers and members of the police’s elite YAMAM counter-terror unit located the terrorists and gun battle ensued, during which seven terrorists were killed.

3:00 p.m. – Defense Minister Ehud Barak claims that the terrorists originated in the Gaza Strip and that Israel will respond “forcefully and decisively.”

6:30 p.m. IDF strikes terror targets in Rafah in the Gaza Strip in response to the terror attacks. Three Palestinians reported dead in the air strikes.

7 p.m. One person injured in an additional shooting attack near Eilat.

According to witnesses the driver of the first bus averted a greater tragedy. Benny Belevsky, the 60-year-old driver continued to drive through the hail of gunfire, doing his best to escape the terrorists. Passengers on the bus also reported a few soldiers on board fired back at the terrorists as the bus sped away.

Just before Netafim junction I heard gunfire,” the driver told Ynet. “The bullets hit the bus and two of them shattered the window near me, passed just above my head and hit the ceiling. I am experienced enough to know that I should keep driving and that I mustn’t stop so that the damage doesn’t get worse.”

Belevsky added that the passengers panicked, and that some of them were hurt, but he knew he had to get to the IDF checkpoint at Netafim. “It was scary – you never think something like this will happen to you. But I did what I had to do,” he said.

The packed bus was filled with passengers, mostly on their way to a pleasant summer vacation. “The driver accelerated and was able to prevent a much more serious outcome,” one said.

Witnesses are now saying that those that fired on the buses were dressed in Egyptian Army uniforms! Egypt is denying that they were involved.

An Egyptian security official has denied Thursday that Egypt had any involvement in the terror attacks in the south of Israel. The official, told Egyptian media that the armed terrorists operated from within Israel’s borders.
“Egypt was in no way involved in the incident, since it is difficult to penetrate the Egypt-Israel border. Moreover, it is impossible to open fire from the Egyptian side to Israel because of the distance,” said the source.

Several mortar shells were simultaneously fired from the Gaza Strip at soldiers conducting routine maintenance work on the security fence on the Israel-Egypt border.

According to Historian and Middle East Expert, Dr.  Barry Rubin :

This isn’t just another terrorist attack—it’s a major escalation, a new phase in the Arab-Israeli conflict in two ways. First, it is the bitter fruit of the U.S.-backed downfall of the government of President Husni Mubarak in Egypt, opening the Egypt-Israel border as a new front in the war. Second, it is probably the first successful al-Qaida attack on Israel. (The Palestinian Popular Committees, a Gaza-based al-Qaida affiliate is the prime suspect.)

Reports are coming in that Israel’s “Peace Partners” are already celebrating (H/T Elder of Zion):

Palestine Press Agency, which is a Fatah-leaning site, has commentators saying

“God praise the [Hamas] Al-Qassam Brigades” (they have not taken responsibility)

“Our Lord is with the heroes”

“[I] call for resistance in the Gaza with rocket fire and suicide bombings and the Glory of God and His Messenger”

“Tribute to the Heroes of each attack and no matter what their affiliation”

“God is great and victory is coming”

By far the most popular comment in the Hamas-oriented PalTimes is “God is great.”

Firas Press has a numbr of “God is Great” comments as well as one referring to the victims as “monkeys.”

The popular forum site has hundreds of messages of praise as well as digging up every possible scrap of rumor they can find.

I have yet to find a single expression of sadness or condemnation for the attack. One person thought that it was “suspicious” and implied it was a Zionist false flag attack to be a pretext for invading Egypt or Gaza; that’s the closest I could find to a reservation about the attack. Everyone else is pouring out happiness and congratulations to the heroic terrorists.

An Israeli friend Roni on summer vacation from the Guyus pro-Israel information sharing network wrote,

Democratic elections are yet to be seen in Egypt, but the direct result of the revolution is that anarchy rules in Sinai. The local Egyptian police is afraid of the armed Bedouins that rule the area and the smuggling route to Gaza is open to all.

Such anarchy is the perfect breeding ground for radical Islam. Today’s terror attack is proof of that.

The beautiful town of el Arish in Sinai is known for its beaches and luxury resorts. But in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, el Arish is becoming known for something far different from tourism. A well-armed jihadist group is making its presence felt on the dusty streets here, intimidating opponents and demanding Egypt becomes an Islamist state.

If the Egyptian authorities do not move quickly to crush the extremists and regain control, the Sinai Peninsula could soon become a separate Islamic emirate run by Salafis, Hamas and Al-Qaeda.

The Arab revolution is creating fast paced changes in the Arab world. Sadly these fast paced changes will not lead to democracy and freedom for the Arab people.

Instead radical Islamic groups are quick to hijack the winds of change aiming to create Islamic regimes instead of democratic ones.

The United States condemned the attack, but tomorrow our anti-Israel President will most probalby resume his pressure for Israel to make major concessions to these terrorists.

Today’s terror attack represents a major escalation in the war to destroy Israel. It is the first successful terror attack by an Al Qaida affiliated organization, and it was an attack where the terrorists infiltrated from Israel. Since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian Army has ceded control of parts of Sinai, unfortunately today’s attack is a result of that cession.

A few hours  after the attack, Israeli warplanes attacked suspected terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip . As many as six Palestinians – including the chief of the Popular Resistance Committees – were reportedly killed in the Israeli attack on the Gaza city of Rafa. IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Ganz that Israel targeted that area because it is “where we believe the planners of the attack are based.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu went on Israeli TV at about 1PM EST. He announced the deaths of the people who planned the attack.

Firstly, I would like to express my condolences to the families of the civilians murdered, and to those of the soldiers who fell while responding to today’s terrorist attacks.

I share their pain. I know that their lives will never be the same. I also want to express my hopes for a speedy recovery to those injured in these attacks and are currently undergoing treatment in hospital.

We all witnessed today an attempt to escalate the terrorist war against Israel by launching of attacks from the Sinai. If there is someone who thinks that the State of Israel will let this pass, he is mistaken.

I have set out a principle – when the citizens of Israel are attacked, we respond immediately and with strength.  That principle was implemented today.  Those who gave the order to murder our citizens, while hiding in Gaza, are no longer among the living.

I commend the IDF and the security services who eliminated today in Gaza the senior figures of the organization which carried out the terror attacks in the south. I commend the soldiers, police, and members of the security services who acted swiftly, determinately and bravely against the terrorists, and who thereby prevented an even greater tragedy.

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

UPDATE: 1am Israel time- Hours after  the initial attack , terrorists who had apparently gone undetected attacked again, and a member of an elite police counter-terrorism unit was killed, the eighth Israeli fatality, according to Chief Inspector Alex Kagalsky, a spokesman for the Israel police.

Gunfire continued on both sides of the  border late into the evening. After nightfall, Israel’s “Iron Dome” anti-missile system intercepted a rocket fired by Gaza militants at the city of Ashkelon, the military said.

Mortars have been fired from Egypt and Gaza intermittently through out the day. 

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