Escalation in the South

Dozens of Rockets, Mortar Shells Explode Near Gaza, Southern Israel

Residents of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom told to stay in their homes; Palestinians report exchanges of fire between Israel, Palestinians; Gaza sources report at least 11 policemen killed in attack on police station in Sinai near Egypt-Israel border.

Dozens of rockets and mortar shells exploded in the Eshkol Regional Council in southern Israel on Sunday evening.

Residents of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom, near the meeting point of the Egypt-Israel-Gaza borders, were told to stay in their homes, for reasons of safety.

Palestinians sources in Gaza reported exchanges of fire in the area of Kerem Shalom, including shells fired from the Israeli side, and according to the report, Palestinians have been wounded. Israeli tanks reportedly fired at least 15 shells in the area near Kerem Shalom. Egyptian state television also reported that an Islamist militant group was behind the attack.

Palestinian sources reported that a group of global Jihadi operatives penetrated the Egyptian army outpost near Kerem Shalom, killing at least 11 soldiers, and kidnapped a number of other soldiers. Egyptian military sources told the Palestinian Ma'an news agency that the terror attck was carried against a central army position near the Kerem Hashalom crossing, which is known by the soldiers as Tahrir Square. 

At the time of the attack, 20 soldiers were in position. According to the report, the masked attackers, who were driving all-terrain vehicles with heavy machine guns, fired RPGs at the military outpost and killed between 11 and 15 soldiers. Afterward, they kidnapped the remaining soldiers and left the place in an armored Egyptian vehicle. This is the most severe attack of Global Jihad on the Egyptian army.

Earlier on Sunday, An Israel Air Force craft targeted a motorcycle travelling in the Gaza city of Rafah on Sunday, killing one militant and wounding another.

According to initial reports, the attack was a surgical strike against a member of the Popular Resistance Committees militant organization.

An IDF statement released after the attack said that the assault was a joint operation by the army and the Shin Bet, adding that militant squad targeted belonged to a global Jihad organization.

According to the statement, the two men targeted in the strike were 19-year-old Eyad Nadi Okel, who was killed in the attack, and 22-year-old Ahmed Sayid Ismayil, who Palestinian sources said was wounded in the attack, while the IDF claimed was killed as well.

The IDF said that Ismayil belonged to the Salafi wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, which is linked to the global Jihad movement operating in the Strip and in the Sinai, adding that he was involved in the June attack on the border with Israel that killed an Israeli citizen.

In addition, the IDF statement said that Ismayil and Hijazi were working on another attack against Israeli targets on the Egypt-Israel border.

The strike came amid a time of tense quiet along Israel's border with the coastal enclave, one that is periodically interrupted by short bouts of fighting.

Late last month, Gaza militants fired four rockets into southern Israel, with two of the projectiles landing near the desert town of Sderot. No injuries or damage were reported.

The other two exploded in an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council. A 28-year-old woman injured her ankle while seeking shelter following the sound of the alarm and was evacuated to Barzilay Medical Center in Ashkelon.

Last week, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau urged Israeli tourists in Sinai to return to Israel immediately because terrorists are planning to abduct Israelis from the peninsula.

The agency said it issued the warning because it has received new intelligence indicating that Gaza-based Palestinian terror groups and organizations linked to Al-Qaida in Sinai are planning imminent attacks on Israeli tourists there. The terrorists' primary goal is to kidnap Israelis, the agency added.

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.

"The Counter-Terrorism Bureau once again urges all Israelis in Sinai to leave the region immediately and return to Israel," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement on Thursday.