Armed attackers from Sinai breached Israel's border last night in an armored personnel carrier stolen in a raid on an Egyptian police station that killed around 15 Egyptian policemen.
The Fahd APC was hit in an Israeli air strike, preventing what military officials said could have been a deadly large-scale terror attack. A second personnel carrier exploded at the Kerem Shalom border terminal, which connects Israel, Gaza and Egypt, before the vehicle could enter Israeli territory.
No Israelis were hurt in the incident, the IDF said.
"IDF forces, under the command of Maj. Gen. Tal Russo, and on the orders of Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, and with the assistance of the Shin Bet, showed alertness, sharpness and purposefulness, and prevented a terror attack that could have caused many casualties," said Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
"The way the attackers operated once again raises the necessity of resolute Egyptian action to impose security and prevent terror in Sinai."
Israel Defense Forces soldiers fired on an unclear number of attackers seen escaping from the site. Israelis living in the Kerem Shalom area were ordered to stay home and lock their doors, with the army fearing that the gunmen would try to abduct Israelis up to several hours after the APC incursion. They are being asked to pay attention to directives from the Home Front Command.
"As of now, we know of no terrorists still in the area," IDF spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said last night. "There are some Israeli communities nearby, and residents have been asked to stay in their homes."
Egyptian security sources said the attackers fired live ammunition at police officers at the station during the raid.
An Egyptian security official told the state news agency that some of the militants were from Sinai and some entered through underground tunnels from the Gaza Strip.
IDF spokesman Yoav Mordechai said the attackers may have been a global jihad group, but said the army had not positively identified the group to which they belonged. Mordechai said the IDF has been in contact with the Egyptian authorities, saying they "see eye to eye with us on what happened."
Immediately after the personnel carrier came through the border terminal, security forces set up roadblocks to keep the assailants off Route 232, the main road in the region.
Police in the area were bolstered by IDF soldiers and the air force "to prevent additional incidents in the area," said a military source.
As of press time, the IDF was continuing to search the area.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi called for an urgent meeting with the country's military council after the attack, the Muslim Brotherhood's party said on its Facebook page.
The Counter-Terrorism Bureau urged Israeli tourists in Sinai last week to return to Israel immediately because terrorists were planning to abduct Israelis from the peninsula.
The government agency said it issued the warning because it had received new intelligence indicating that Gaza-based Palestinian terror groups and organizations linked to Al-Qaida in Sinai were planning imminent attacks on Israeli tourists there. While it has issued similar warnings several times in the past, many Israelis ignore them, pressing forward with plans to enjoy a relatively cheap beach vacation.
Hamas, meanwhile, condemned the killing of Egyptian police officers.
"Hamas condemns this ugly crime that killed a number of Egyptian soldiers and extends its deep condolences to the families of the victims and to the leadership and the people of Egypt," the Islamist group said in a statement.
Dozens of rockets hit Negev after IAF strike
Palestinian militants fired dozens of rockets and mortar shells on the southern Negev last night. No significant injuries were reported.
In an Israeli air strike earlier yesterday, a militant riding a motorcycle in the Gaza city of Rafah was killed and a second was either wounded or killed.
The IDF said in a statement that the casualties were members of a global jihad organization. Mordechai said there was no connection between the air strike and the attempted terror attack later in the day.
The IDF and Shin Bet said they carried out the attack in which at least one member of the Salafi wing of the Popular Resistance Committees was killed. The committees are linked to the global jihad movement operating in the Gaza Strip and Sinai.
Israeli and Palestinian sources confirmed that Eyad Nadi Okel, 19, was killed in the strike. The IDF statement said Ahmed Sayid Ismayil, 22, was also killed, but Palestinian sources said he was wounded.
The IDF said Ismayil was involved in a June attack on the Gaza-Israel border in which an Israeli citizen was killed. The statement said he was planning another attack against Israeli targets, near the border between Egypt and Israel.
The strike came during a time of tense quiet along Israel's border with Gaza, one that is periodically interrupted by short bouts of fighting. Late last month, Gaza militants fired four rockets into southern Israel, with two landing near the desert town of Sderot. No injuries or damage were reported.
The other two exploded in an open area under the jurisdiction of the Eshkol Regional Council.
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