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Wave of Terror Kills Seven, Injures 40 in Southern Israel

Israeli soldiers injured during terrorist attack; photo by Yossi Ben, AP

In a dramatic — and strikingly well-organized — escalation of the terror war against Israel, a string of attacks took place today about twelve miles away from the southern resort town of Eilat, near the Egyptian border. The New York Times describes this as “the most serious assault on Israeli territory in more than two years” and notes that this is the deadliest day for Israel since Netanyahu took office two and a half years ago.

The terrorists infiltrated Israel through the Sinai border. They managed to get in with guns, explosives, mortars and rocket-powered grenades, which they used in a coordinated attack spread over a period of seven hours. Seven Israelis are reported dead so far: six civilians and one soldier.

The timeline runs as follows:

  1. At noon, terrorists in a car opened fire on a public bus, Egged #392, traveling from Be’er Sheva to Eilat. Seven were injured. The terrorists were presumably aware that as today is Thursday, the bus could be assumed to contain many soldiers. (In Israel, soldiers often travel home from base on Thursdays for the weekend. )
  2. When soldiers rushed to the scene to assist, multiple explosive devices were detonated near them.
  3. Five minutes after those explosions took place, mortar shells were fired from Egypt into Israel; no injuries were reported.
  4. Israeli security, meanwhile, set up barricades and located the car from which the initial drive-by shooting took place. A gunfight ensued in which two to four of the terrorists were killed.
  5. At 1:10 pm, an anti-tank missile was fired at a private Israeli vehicle, injuring seven.
  6. Minutes later, another anti-tank missile was fired at another private vehicle, killing six.
  7. At 6:00 pm, Israeli aircraft hit Gaza. At least six Palestinians were killed, reportedly including a senior “resistance” figure.
  8. At 7:00 pm, while Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF chief Benny Gantz were giving a press conference at the scene of the attacks, terrorists opened fire nearby, gravely injuring another two.

I’m afraid I’m too upset right now to offer any sober, dispassionate analysis, other than to say that off the top of my head I cannot recall any other series of attacks to rival this one in terms of coordination. This is not Hamas’s standard modus operandi. They’re getting help. They’re also, judging by number 8 on the timeline, getting rather cocky.

Egypt is claiming that the terrorists didn’t come from Egyptian territory, which is a rather bold assertion considering the state of near-total lawlessness that currently reigns in the Sinai Peninsula. (To wit: the five uncontested and unsolved recent terrorist attacks on the Egyptian natural gas pipeline that supplies Israel and Jordan.) Hamas, meanwhile, is accusing Israel of orchestrating today’s attacks as a pretext for “aggression” against Gaza.

Hamas leaders in Gaza are reported to be in hiding.