Multiple attacks killed at least seven Israelis today near the Egyptian border. Israel's defense minister blamed militants in Gaza, while a former ambassador said Israeli forces were caught by surprise.
Militants carried out a series of attacks on Israeli buses and cars on a highway near the border with Egypt midday Thursday, highlighting the deteriorating stability along the open frontier between the two neighbors.
The coordinated attacks on at least three separate targets north of the city of Eilat that left at least seven Israelis dead, including one soldier, and dozens injured were highly unusual for the quiet border region. Surprised by the scope of the attacks, Israel security forces killed some seven militants.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Palestinian militants in Gaza are exploiting Egypt's weakening control in the vast Sinai peninsula since the popular revolt that unseated former President Hosni Mubarak in February.
"This incident reflects the weakened Egyptian hold on Sinai and the expansion of terrorist elements," Mr. Barak said in a statement. "The source of the terrorist attacks is Gaza and we will act against them with full strength and resolve."
In the wake of Egypt's revolution, many Israelis were concerned that the turmoil would spill over into their country. Today's multipronged assault on Israeli citizens and soldiers that came on the heels of several attacks on Israel's energy supplies drew calls for the Jewish state to bolster its defenses along the porous border with Egypt.
"We were sure that we wouldn’t be able avoid the anarchy in Egypt," says Eli Shaked, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt. "Unfortunately this time we failed to anticipate the attack and to take the necessary measures. We have a big problem along the border."