JERUSALEM – A suicide attack today in Egypt’s Sinai desert near the Israeli border and a second, nearly simultaneous foiled large-scale bombing against the main Israel-Gaza crossing were coordinated by al-Qaida and mark the global jihad group’s first strike inside the Jewish state, senior Palestinian security officials told WND.
Palestinian forces today stopped a car with several terrorists from passing through the Karni border checkpoint, the main cargo passage between Israel and the Gaza Strip. The crossing is controlled by the Palestinians on the Gaza side and by Israeli officers on the Israeli side.
Israel immediately closed the Karni crossing after the explosives-laden car was found and evacuated all Israeli personnel. Security sources said the car, which was safely captured by Palestinian officers, contained “enormous” amounts of explosives likely meant to be detonated at the border crossing inside Israel.
At almost the exact same time in Sinai, on the Egyptian side of the Gaza-Egypt border just outside Israel’s Rafah crossing, two suicide bombers exploded near a multinational peacekeeping force, injuring at least four people.
The attackers hit just two days after a triple bombing killed 24 at Egypt’s Sinai resort city of Dahab on the Gulf of Aqaba.
Israeli security officials, for now, are refraining from commenting on whether today’s bombings and attempted bombing were coordinated or if they were related to Monday’s Dahab attacks, which already are being widely attributed to al-Qaida.
A spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces told WND, “The (thwarted) attack took place on the Palestinian side. Clearly it was meant to be detonated inside the crossing or on the Israeli side only. We are investigating the possibilities regarding responsibility and coordination.”
Senior Palestinian security officials, including the chief of a Palestinian Authority intelligence agency, told WND today’s attacks in Egypt and thwarted attack against Israel’s crossing were indeed coordinated, were related to Monday’s Dahab bombings and were the handiwork of groups working on behalf of al-Qaida.
“Al-Qaida came just a few feet from attacking Israel for the first time,” said the intelligence chief, speaking on condition his name be withheld.
Egypt’s official news agency confirmed today’s Sinai blasts on the multinational peacekeepers were suicide attacks. An Egyptian Interior Ministry statement said the only casualties were the bombers.
The Multinational Force and Observers’ 1,800 members monitor the 1979 Egypt-Israeli peace deal. Ten countries make up the force – the United States, Canada, Australia, Colombia, Fiji, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand and Uruguay.
The peacekeeping force’s mandate is to ensure the provisions of the treaty between Israel and Egypt – which led to Israel’s withdrawal from the Sinai – are enforced. In practice, it serves mostly as a buffer between the two countries in case tensions rise.
The attack against the Israel-Gaza crossing was foiled reportedly after Palestinian officers became suspicious of the vehicle and opened fire on the car. The terrorists in the car escaped but were immediately captured. Palestinian police sappers arrived on the scene to deal with the booby-trapped vehicle, which according to sources contained an “enormous” amount of high-grade explosives.
The gunmen in the car reportedly belonged to the Popular Resistance Committees, which was behind the 2003 attack on a U.S. convoy in Gaza in which three Americans were killed.
Abu Abir, spokesmen for the Committees, denied his group was involved in today’s foiled attack.
Palestinian security officials told WND they have information the terrorists involved in today’s thwarted Karni attack traveled from Gaza to the Sinai desert where they received instructions and training and met with local Sinai jihadists to coordinate the bombings. They said a joint Egyptian-Palestinian antiterrorism taskforce today began combing the northern Sinai for suspected plotters of the attack.
The Palestinian security officials said the Gaza-based terrorists involved in today’s thwarted attack likely were able to travel in recent months to the Sinai through Gaza’s Rafah border terminal, which was passed last November to Egyptian, Palestinian and foreign control in a deal brokered by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The terminal was controlled entirely by Israel prior to its evacuation of the Gaza Strip last summer.
A WND probe recently found Rice’s Rafah border agreement has allowed terrorists to infiltrate the Gaza Strip, where they are poised to attack Israel, and grants Gaza-based terrorists freedom to travel into the nearby Sinai desert, where they can meet with regional jihadists.
Israeli and Palestinian officials in recent months have warned al-Qaida has infiltrated the Gaza Strip and is poised to attack Israel.
If it is confirmed today’s Egypt bombings and thwarted Israel-crossing attacks were the work of al-Qaida, it would mark the first terror attack to actually be organized by the global jihad group inside the Jewish state. Last month, Israel arrested Palestinians planning a large-scale attack on behalf of al-Qaida, but the plans were still at an elementary stage.
Also today, Egyptian security agencies revealed Monday’s Dahab terrorist attacks were carried out by three suicide bombers – Bedouins from northern Sinai. The Egyptian investigation is now focusing on uncovering those responsible for the attack, according to Egyptian state-run media.
Egyptian security forces reportedly conducted ambushes yesterday in central Sinai and succeeded in capturing three individuals they suspect were connected with the attack, all three were local Bedouins.
Dahab is a budget Red Sea beach and diving center popular with Israeli and European backpackers located on the Sinai Peninsula near Sharm El-Sheikh, not far from Eilat at Israel’s border.
Immediately following the attacks, WND reported Israeli security officials said they believe local cells in the Sinai focused on recruiting Bedouins run by Egyptian Islamic extremists affiliated with al-Qaida were responsible for the explosions.
The Egyptian government recently informed Israeli and U.S. officials they successfully eradicated al-Qaida cells in the area. They said they moved large special units to the Sinai that were able to rid the region of terror bases.
Egypt also announced it initiated programs in recent months to create employment for the many unemployed Bedouins.
“Clearly this bombing shows the Egyptians have been unable to stop the al-Qaida cells from flourishing in the area,” an Israeli security official said Monday of the Dahab attacks.
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