Five die in attacks by Israel forces, violence
Tue, 19 June 2012
TEL AVIV — Five persons were killed in separate incidents in the Gaza Strip and along Israel's border with Egypt yesterday, prompting fears of a new round of violence following weeks of relative calm. Two Palestinian activists were shot dead by Israeli soldiers in an early-morning gunbattle after they crossed the border from the Sinai peninsula and detonated a roadside bomb near the town of Kadesh Barnea.
The bomb struck two vehicles carrying Israeli contract workers. One worker, identified as an Arab-Israel from Haifa, was killed. Another passenger in one of the vehicles was injured. Israeli army spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said the activists, wearing camouflage and helmets, had also used a rocket-propelled grenade and AK-47 assault rifles in the attack. One of the two died in "huge explosion," that was sparked by gunfire, she said.
Residents were told to stay indoors, as Israeli troops combed the area and closed off roads in search of more accomplices. It was unclear whether the two who were killed had acted alone. Shortly after the attack, two activists were killed in an Israeli airstrike in northern Gaza Strip. An Israeli military statement said they belonged to a sniper squad which had been operating along the security fence separating the salient from Israel.
The Islamic Jihad confirmed that the two were members of its armed wing, the Quds Brigades. Five Palestinians, including a woman and her child, were injured in two overnight airstrikes by Israeli forces - in Rafah along the border with Egypt and in Gaza City. Israel confirmed the airstrikes, with the military saying in a statement they were in response to rockets fired at southern Israel. It claimed a weapons workshop in Rafah and a site in Gaza City had been targeted.
The early morning border attack was the most sophisticated against Israelis in the area since August 18 last year, when an attack squad crossed from the Sinai into Israel, firing at vehicles and sparking a chain of events that claimed eight lives. According to Leibovich, authorities are investigating whether the two attackers had originated in the Gaza Strip. North Sinai Governor Major General Abdul Wahab Mabrouk denied there had been an infiltration from Gaza into Sinai. He said that Egypt is securing its borders.
"Sinai is secured and is totally under control by the government. Any infiltrator is captured. Egypt is not responsible for securing Israeli territories, and Israel must secure its borders," he said. Israel has expressed concerns that, since the unrest in Egypt began in early 2011, the authorities in Cairo have effectively lost control of the Sinai peninsula. On Saturday, two Grad missiles landed near the town of Mitzpeh Ramon in Israel, almost 30 kilometres from the border with Egypt and an area never before targeted by rocket fire.
Israeli officials believed the missiles were fired by militants from the Sinai. The contract workers in yesterday's attacks had been on their way to work on the fence that Israel is building along its more than 200-kilometre-long border with Egypt. Israel has expedited construction of the fence. Defence officials said the attack might have been an attempt to sabotage work on the fence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said however that the attack would not deter Israel from completing the fence. — DPA
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