Doubts Emerge Over Identity of Terrorists Who Carried Out Attack in Israel's South

Gazans doubt responsibility of Popular Resistance Committees and their military wing; Egypt newspaper identifies three of attack planners as Egyptians.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Amira Hass
Amira Hass

It has been one week since the terror attacks near Eilat, and there is no sign of the traditional mourners' tents for the relatives of militants killed by the Israel Defense Forces, or indeed any reports of Gazan families who are grieving as a result of IDF actions near the Egyptian border last Thursday. Nor were there reports of families demanding the return of their loved ones' bodies for burial. A longtime social activist told Haaretz that even in the event that families were instructed to conceal their grief, news like that is difficult to hide in the Strip.

The absence of mourners' tents reinforces the general sense in the Strip that the perpetrators of the attack were not from Gaza, contrary to Israeli defense establishment claims. Gazans also doubt that members of the Popular Resistance Committees and their military wing (the Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades ) were behind the attack. Support for this view can be seen in a report on Monday by the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, according to which Egyptian security forces had identified three of the planners as Egyptians. A PRC spokesman responded to the report by announcing that the organization "praised" the attack but had not planned it.

Palestinians looking at the wreckage of a car after it was hit by an Israeli missile, killing an Islamic Jihad militant in the Gaza Strip early August 24, 2011.Credit: AP

Within hours after the attack, at about 5 P.M. Thursday, two IDF missiles killed PRC chief Kamal al-Nirab and three members of its military wing, who were in one of the men's homes in the Rafah refugee camp. The 2-year-old son of the homeowner also died in the missile strike.

Tens of thousands of people attended the funeral Friday morning of the five victims. A relative of Nirab's told Haaretz that there is a sense that people in Rafah want revenge.

Nirab was popular in the area less because of his military prowess than due to a role he embraced in the past few years, that of mediator and conflict-solver - within families and between Fatah and Hamas

Judging from conversations with a few people, the rest of the Strip is tending against escalation. "In the north people see Iron Dome in action," a man from the area of Beit Lahiya said, referring to the antimissile system protecting Israeli communities adjacent to Gaza. "The military ineffectiveness of our rockets was never so apparent to people as it is now," he added.

Palestinian media outlets reported that three children were killed in Israeli retaliatory air strikes. But one of them, a 13-year-old boy, actually died after being hit by a rocket or missile fired by Palestinian militants north of the Shati refugee camp on Friday. Such incidents, when rockets launched from the Strip fall in Gazan territory, causing injuries and damage, are not widely reported but are not rare.

The body of a 65-year-old man was found in farmland east of the Bureij refugee camp yesterday, according to local residents a victim of an Israeli air strike. No other details about the circumstances were available. Excluding him, since Thursday the IDF killed 14 Palestinians, four of them civilians (including a physician and his 2-year-old nephew ) and the remainder members of militant organizations. An additional 32 Gazans were injured in the attacks, including eight women and nine children, some of them critically. Researchers from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights counted 20 attacks (from the air, sea and ground ) between Thursday and Saturday evening.



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