Israel army kills 3 'terrorists' at border

2012-09-21 16:00
(AP, File)

(AP, File)

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Har Harif - Israeli troops on Friday shot dead three heavily armed gunmen who sneaked across the Egyptian border and ambushed soldiers, averting "a very big terror attack", a military spokesperson said.

One Israeli soldier was also injured in the stomach during the incident and taken to a hospital in the southern city of Beersheva, medical officials said.

The incident took place on the Israeli side of the frontier at a place called Har Harif which is almost half-way down Israel's 240km border with Egypt's Sinai peninsula.

"Three armed terrorist entered from the Sinai into Israel," army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich told reporters.

"They opened fire toward IDF [army] troops that were guarding the workers [building the fence] in that area. Another force that was nearby ... rushed to the area and targeted those three terrorists," she said.

"All three terrorists were killed."

Increase in border incidents

She said the gunmen were "very well armed and prepared" in terms of equipment. At least one was wearing an explosives belt, the army said.

"A very big terror attack was thwarted by the quick response of these soldiers," Leibovich said, ruling out the possibility that any further gunmen had infiltrated Israeli territory.

The injured soldier was airlifted to Soroka hospital in Beersheva. "One soldier is in moderate to serious condition with a stomach injury," hospital spokesperson Inbar Gutter said.

In Egypt, a security source and witnesses reported hearing an explosion followed by heavy gunfire.

Border security incidents have increased over the past 18 months as a wave of lawlessness has gripped the Sinai since the overthrow of veteran Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

On 5 August, Islamist militants staged a bloody ambush on an Egyptian security post, killing 16 border police before crashing an armoured vehicle and a truck through the Israeli border fence where they were killed by troops.

Launch pad

Six weeks earlier, at least three militants had on 18 June sneaked across the border from Sinai and ambushed two cars carrying Israeli construction workers, killing one and sparking a firefight with the army in which two of the gunmen died. The third fled back to Egypt.

The most serious incident for the Jewish state took place in August 2011, when another group of gunmen from Sinai infiltrated southern Israel and staged a series of ambushes that killed eight Israelis.

Israel has accused Gaza-based militants of using the Sinai as a launch pad for cross-border attacks and has demanded that Egypt crack down on Islamist elements in the lawless peninsula.

In a bid to prevent such attacks, as well as the entry of illegal immigrants from Africa, Israel has been working on the construction of a massive steel barrier along its border with the Sinai.

Read more on:    egypt  |  israel  |  security  |  middle east peace
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