Egyptian militants infiltrated the porous Sinai Peninsula Monday and opened fire on Israeli civilians who were building a security fence meant to prevent such attacks, the AP reports.
One Israeli citizen was killed during the attack, as were two of the Egyptian terrorists during an exchange with Israeli security forces.
The attack underscores the growing volatility along the Southern Israeli-Egyptian border, with terrorist forces attaining greater freedom due to the interim Egyptian government’s failure to patrol the border area.
The AP reports:
Military spokeswoman Lt. Col Avital Leibovich said the assailants have not been identified but acknowledged that defense officials suspected Palestinian militants in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, which also borders the Sinai desert in that same area, might have been involved.
Several hours after the attack, an Israeli airstrike killed two men riding a motorcycle in the northern Gaza Strip near the Israeli border. The Islamic Jihad militant group said the men were members on a "reconnaissance" mission and vowed revenge. Military officials said the incident was not connected to the earlier infiltration from Egypt.
Israeli security officials have grown increasingly anxious about the security situation in the Sinai since Mubarak's ouster. Continued political turmoil in Egypt, weak policing in the Sinai and tough terrain have all encouraged Islamic militant activity in the area. The mountainous desert now harbors an array of militant groups, including Palestinian extremists and al-Qaida-inspired jihadists, Egyptian and Israeli security officials say. The tumultuous situation surrounding Egyptian elections, in which Islamic groups made a strong showing, has added to Israeli unease.