Egypt vows to hunt down gunmen in deadly border raid
Military sweep ordered after militants kill 16 troops, stealing army vehicles to get into Israel
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. As Political Editor and then Chief Political Commentator, he previously covered the John Major and early Tony Blair era. He has written for the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Times and Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Correspondent. He is the author of Mandelson and the Making of New Labour (2000).
Tuesday 07 August 2012
Egypt said it had deployed at least two helicopter gunships in northern Sinai to demonstrate its determination to hunt down the Islamist militants it believes killed 16 of its soldiers during a cross-border attack on Israel.
But it was unclear last night whether the aircraft heading for the coastal town of El-Arish – ahead of a military sweep of the area – would satisfy Israeli concerns that Egypt was not doing enough to contain the surge of violence in the Sinai Peninsula since deposed President Hosni Mubarak's fall last year.
On Sunday, in an operation described as "complex and highly sophisticated" by Israeli experts, the masked militants killed the 16 Egyptian soldiers at sundown as they began to break the Ramadan fast, then seized a pick-up truck and an armoured personnel carrier at the checkpoint. The gunmen, said to have been carrying explosives, sub-machine-guns and grenades, then drove towards the border. They blew up the truck next to the border fence before driving the armoured vehicle through the hole left by the explosion, reportedly getting into Israel. The Israeli military said it had received intelligence about an imminent raid and launched an air strike on the vehicle to avert an attack on Israeli communities in the area. Eight of the militants – said to be "global" jihadists significantly more extreme than the main Palestinian factions based in neighbouring Gaza – were then killed by Israeli forces in a 15-minute operation, which also included tanks and artillery. It was not immediately clear how specific Israel's intelligence was or whether it was also available to the Egyptian authorities.
Calling on Egypt to do more to prevent attacks in Sinai, Ehud Barak, Israel's Defence Minister, told a parliamentary committee yesterday: "We hope this will be a fitting wake up call for the Egyptians to take things in hand on their side more forcefully."
Visiting the scene, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that while Egypt and Israel had a common interest in maintaining a "quiet" border, "when talking about the security of Israeli citizens, Israel must and will rely only on itself".
The killing of the soldiers at a border checkpoint poses a serious security challenge for Egypt's new Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi, who ordered three days of mourning and told Egyptian state television after the incident that "this treason, this aggression and criminality cannot be appeased. Troops will totally control Sinai".
But then in a highly contradictory move, apparently intended for internal consumption, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood posted a claim on its website that the attack "can be attributed to Mossad [the Israeli foreign intelligence agency]".
While Egypt swiftly closed the crossing with Gaza, it was unclear whether the suspected Sinai Bedouin militants were augmented by others from Gaza, where extreme Salafist and other militants not linked to the main factions have been known to operate.
However, Hamas denounced "this awful crime".
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
Rowan Atkinson to sell £10 million McLaren 'supercar' he crashed into a tree and a lamppost
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Warriors in ancient Iraq suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder more than 3,000 years ago, say researchers
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An established, family owned de...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exciting position has risen for a Customer ...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...
£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A smart software company locate...