Eilat terror 'most severe' in area in years

By Robyn Rosen, August 18, 2011
The IDf said the situation in Eilat was under control

The IDf said the situation in Eilat was under control

The Israel Defence Force says it has the situation under control after a series of terrorist attacks in southern Israel which have left five people dead.

Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich, an IDF spokeswoman, confirmed there were multiple attacks – two on civilian buses, one on an IDF patrol vehicle and one on a civilian tractor.

During the first attack at midday today local time, shots were fired from the Egyptian side of the border at an Egged civilian bus travelling from Shizafon to Eilat.

A total of 14 people, including tourists and soldiers, were injured.

While the medical teams were evacuating the wounded, additional reports came in of a second incident on the same road.

This attack, on another public bus and two other vehicles, led to several injuries and an Israeli ambulance spokesman confirmed five deaths.

Shortly after, a patrol vehicle of IDF soldiers who were making their way to the scene after being alerted to the attack, were targeted by a road-side bomb.

The fourth attack, with mortar shells, targeted a civilian tractor which was conducting maintenance work on the Israel-Egypt border.

During an exchange of fire between IDF soldiers and the terrorist squad, seven terrorists were killed.

Lt Col Leibovich said: "We have now taken control of the situation. At this stage, I can say that the terrorist squad originated in Gaza, but I don't have further information on whether it was al-Qaeda or another organisation.

"The IDF has been on alert in that area and we have had similar events before but not in this multi-layered manner. We are prepared for terrorists trying to attack civilians. However I think this is the most severe terror incident we have had in this area in the last couple of years.

"The IDF has a distinct goal to protect the civilians of Israel. We will not tolerate such a severe terrorist attack."

She added that some of the roads are still closed and investigations are ongoing.

Meanwhile Israeli Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, has said Palestinian terrorists are behind the attacks. He said: "The event reflects the weakening of the Egyptian hold on Sinai and the expansion of terrorist action in the area.

"The source of the terror acts is Gaza, and we will act against them with full force and determination."

Alistair Burt, the UK Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East, said: "I condemn these appalling and senseless acts of violence.

"As efforts for peace in the region continue, this brutality has no place, nor its perpetrators any excuse. My thoughts and prayers are with those killed and injured and I offer sincere condolences to their families and friends."

Egypt reportedly closed on Thursday the Rafah border crossing, which is the only crossing from the Gaza Strip into the Sinai peninsula, Channel 2 reported.

Last updated: 4:36pm, August 18 2011