Israeli troops on Gaza border

TEL AVIV – Today’s deadly attacks in Israel killing at least 17 were meant to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden, jihadist sources within an al-Qaida group in the Gaza Strip told WND.

The sources come from inside two al-Qaida-affiliated organizations, Jihadiya Salafiya and Jaish al-Islam.

The sources said both groups were planning to officially take credit for the attack but now delayed their announcement fearing major Israeli reprisals inside Gaza.

Earlier today, WND reported it was an al-Qaida front group headquartered in the Gaza Strip that was behind a series of coordinated attacks targeting Israelis near the southern border resort town of Eilat, according to Egyptian security officials.

The Egyptian officials are coordinating a joint response to the attacks with Israel.

The attacks took place near the vast Israel-Egyptian border.

At least 17 people reportedly were killed and dozens were wounded in the terrorist attacks on Israeli targets, the deadliest assault on Israeli soil in at least four years.

The first attack was a drive-by shooting targeting an Israeli public bus traveling from Be’er Sheva to Eilat. That shooting was near the community of Netafim. The bus reportedly carried a large number of off-duty Israeli soldiers.

When police and Israel Defense Forces responded to the scene, they were met with several explosive devices that were detonated alongside an IDF vehicle. The devices appear to have been planted there.

Simultaneously, an anti-tank missile was fired from Egypt hitting a private vehicle, and several mortar shells also were fired into Israel, reportedly targeting troops patrolling the Israel-Egypt border.

Israeli forces launched a search for the vehicle that was believed to have transported the gunmen to the bus attack.

A second drive-by-shooting targeted another Israeli bus.

Local reports say the vehicle used in the first bus shooting was tracked down and that a firefight ensued.

The IDF spokesman reported that two to four terrorists were killed during the clashes.

There are reports of more gunfire following a press conference about the attacks by Israel’s Defense Minister, Ehud Barack.

An Egyptian security official denied Egypt was involvement in the attacks.

The official told an Egyptian state-run media that the armed terrorists operated from within Israel’s borders.

Egyptian security officials, meanwhile, told WND earlier today the attack was carried out by members of Jihadiya Salafiya, an al-Qaida-allied group in Gaza.

The Egyptian officials said the attackers originated in Gaza, crossed into the neighboring Egyptian Sinai peninsula and then penetrated Israel along the Jewish state’s border with Egypt.

Egyptian military units the past few days have been carrying out large scale military efforts in the Sinai aimed at minimizing the presence of Jihadiya Salafiya and other al-Qaida-affiliated groups.

Israeli officials confirmed the assailants had crossed into Israel from Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, and said there was “clear intelligence information” they originally hailed from the Gaza Strip.

Barak told reporters, “The source of the terror acts is Gaza, and we will act against them with full force and determination.”

There was no official claim of responsibility from any group in Gaza or Egypt, although sources within the al-Qaida-linked groups told WND their organizations were indeed behind the attacks.

Hamas denied it was behind the attacks, but members of Hamas praised the operation.

Last week, WND reported Israel stopped what would have been a spectacular border terrorist attack planned from inside the Gaza Strip, according to the same Egyptian security officials.

The Egyptian officials said there is information the attack, which had been slated for Tuesday, was aimed at the sole pipeline that supplies Gaza with gas. The pipeline, located at the Israeli town of Nahal Oz, is manned and provided by Israel.

An attack on Gaza’s fuel pipelines could have negative implications for Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

While both Hamas and al-Qaida are offshoots of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the groups often clash over a difference in tactics.

In August 2008, Jihadiya Salafiya announced it established an armed wing, which it called the Damascus Soldiers, brandishing weapons in a public display in Gaza while openly identifying with al-Qaida ideologically.

Unlike other radical Islamic organizations such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, which have demonstrated some pragmatism in aspects of political life while still holding an Islamist worldview, the new al-Qaida organization believes in a strict interpretation of the Quran and that only the Quran can dictate how to act.

The Islamist group believes violent jihad is the primary way to spread Islam around the world, including jihad against secular Muslim states.

Hamas has worked with the al-Qaida-allied groups in Gaza. It took credit along with Jaish al-Islam for the kidnapping in June 2006 of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

But Jihadiya Salifiya has been regularly publishing pamphlets labeling Hamas as “non-Muslim” since the terror group ran in 2006 democratic elections, which the Islamist organizations see as an expression of Western values.

Also, for the past two years, al-Qaida leaders themselves have released audio tapes blasting Hamas for participating in elections and in the democratic process.

Hamas several times has engaged in heavy fire clashes with the Islamist organizations in Gaza, including Jihadiya Salafiya.

Bin Laden’s death earlier this year was announced by U.S. President Barack Obama, who said a team of elite U.S. military members raided a Pakistani compound where bin Laden had been located and killed him, burying him at sea almost immediately.

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