Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday offered his condolences to Egypt after a string of brazen assaults by Islamic State-affiliated gunmen killed at least 70 Egyptians, mostly soldiers and police.
Netanyahu said that the attacks by dozens of militants demonstrated that radical Islamists were encircling the Jewish stat
“Terrorism is knocking at our borders,” the prime minister said during a visit to Hadassah Hospital at Ein Karem, where he met with a female soldier injured when attacked by a Palestinian woman at a checkpoint earlier in the week.
“ISIS is not just opposite the Golan Heights. At the moment it is also in Egypt, opposite Rafah, facing our borders, and we are joined with Egypt and with many other countries in the Middle East and the world in the struggle against the extremist Islamic terrorism that is guided by two elements – Iran and the Shiite extremists, and ISIS and the Sunni extremists — as well as other factions such as Hamas,” he said, using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State group.
Netanyahu spoke during a hospital visit to Israeli soldier Liron Israeli, who was badly injured when stabbed by a Palestinian woman at a Jerusalem-Bethlehem checkpoint last week.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also extended his condolences to Egypt, saying he’d “like to embrace the Egyptian people in the wake of this morning’s difficult event in Sinai, a very harsh attack with dozens of casualties, which underscores the fact that this terrorism is engulfing the Middle East.”
Ya’alon also pointed the finger at Iran and Islamist extremist groups, saying it was Israel’s “responsibility, as a state, along with the other countries that are dealing with terrorism, to cooperate and not allow it to raise its head, and I believe that this is what will be done.”
The United States strongly condemned the massive coordinated attack on Egyptian troops in the northern Sinai Peninsula.
White House spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday’s assault was a terrorist attack and that the US “stands resolutely” with Egypt. He said the US extends condolences to the relatives of those who died, as well as to the government and the Egyptian people.
The advanced planning and coordinated execution of the attacks show that the long-running insurgency in the area is growing stronger, posing a serious threat to Egypt’s security as the military-backed government struggles to restore stability after years of unrest since the 2011 uprising.
The Defense Ministry ordered shut Israel’s border crossing into the Gaza Strip and another into Egypt on Wednesday as reports of ongoing terror attacks that killed dozens of Egyptian soldiers painted a grim picture of bloody confusion in the Sinai Peninsula.
Gates at the Kerem Shalom crossing were closed, cutting off the main conduit for goods transferred from Israel to Gaza by hundreds of trucks every day.
In addition, the Nitzana border crossing, used by commercial traffic moving between Israel and Egypt via Sinai, was also closed.
The Taba border crossing, used by pedestrian travelers visiting Egypt in the less-restive southern Sinai peninsula, was still open during the early afternoon.
The closing came hours after militants loyal to the Islamic State group attacked several Egyptian army checkpoints in the northern Sinai near the town of Sheikh Zuweid killing at least 30 soldiers, with at least 40 other soldiers injured according to an Egyptian security officials.
Egypt’s military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir, said fighting was still underway in the area between the armed forces and the militants.
Samir’s statement put the number of soldiers killed so far at 10, but the conflicting numbers could not immediately be reconciled in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
Hamas maintains close ties with the Islamic State-affiliated jihadists in Sinai behind Wednesday’s massive assault on Egyptian troops, Israeli intelligence believes.
Egyptian sources claim that Hamas cares for the Sinai group’s wounded in Gazan hospitals, while the group, which calls itself the “Sinai Province” of the IS-declared “caliphate,” maintains Hamas weapons caches in the Egyptian peninsula, effectively beyond the reach of Israeli air strikes, according to a Thursday report in the Haaretz daily.
Sinai Province is also said to be aiding Hamas in efforts to smuggle weapons into Gaza as part of the Palestinian group’s rearmament efforts.
Analysis: Egypt still trying to find a fitting answer to a complex situation - Middle East - Jerusalem Post
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