This isn’t just another terrorist attack — it’s a major escalation,
a new phase in the Arab-Israeli conflict in two ways. First, it is the bitter fruit of the U.S-backed downfall of the government of President Husni Mubarak in Egypt, opening the Egypt-Israel border as a new front in the war. Second, it is probably the first successful al-Qaida attack on Israel. (The Palestinian Popular Committees, a Gaza-based al-Qaida affiliate is the prime suspect.)
A group of up to 20 terrorists from the Gaza Strip travelled through Egypt using vehicles, then went through the Egyptian border area without any apparent difficulty.
Approaching the Egypt-Israel border they fired at a regularly scheduled public bus and cars on highway 12 — a road between Beersheva and Eilat, then entered Israeli territory. Their armaments included mortars and an RPG, as well as handguns. Soldiers engaged the terrorists in a firefight. Several soldiers were wounded; seven terrorists were killed.
An explosive device, like the ones used in Iraq, was laid to ambush arriving Israeli troops. This is a very sophisticated and complex operation. Seven Israelis were killed: four people in one family whose car was attacked — including two children, aged four and six — and three soldiers riding on a public bus. At least 30 were wounded. For more than 30 years the Egyptian government ensured peace along the desolate border between the two countries. In the post-Mubarak phase – as I warned back in February – the successor regime is not so committed to the Egypt-Israel peace.
“There are many steps the Egyptian government could take [regarding Israel]: letting weapons flow and terrorists walk across the Egypt-Gaza border; not trying too hard to stop terrorists from crossing the Egypt-Israel border; not providing proper protection to Israeli citizens travelling in Egypt or to the Israeli embassy; recalling Egyptian diplomats from Israel; stepping up hostile and official anti-Israel incitement; and so on….