Egyptian army vows to avenge deadly Sinai attack
* Israel complains of growing lawlessness on southern border
* Netanyahu expresses regret over deaths of Egyptian guards
CAIRO: Egypt’s army vowed on Monday to ‘avenge’ the killing of 16 troops by gunmen near the Israeli border, as President Mohamed Morsi ordered security forces to take full control of the Sinai Peninsula.
In Sunday’s attack, 35 gunmen in Bedouin clothing opened fire on the troops before crossing into the Jewish state in an armoured vehicle, Egyptian officials said. Israel said five gunmen were killed on its side. The 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, under which Israel withdrew from the Sinai which it had occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, set strict limits on Egyptian troop numbers in the peninsula. But Israel has complained of growing lawlessness on its southern border since the overthrow of veteran president Hosni Mubarak last year and called for action by Cairo.
“We swear in the name of God to avenge them,” the Egyptian army said. “Egyptians will not have to wait long before they see a reaction to this attack by terrorists.” “Anyone liaising with these groups that have attacked our troops in the Sinai in recent months will pay dearly, be it inside Egypt or abroad,” it added.
Israel said two armoured vehicles were seized, one of which exploded by itself and the other destroyed by a helicopter. The Israeli army said it found the bodies of five gunmen. “We were ready because we had previous information from Shin Bet (security service) and from military intelligence services, which allowed us to thwart a bloody attack,” military spokesman Yoav Mordechai told Israeli army radio.
Gunmen aboard the armoured vehicle “fired in every direction after entering Israeli territory before being attacked by tanks and from the air,” said Mordechai. They were “members of the global jihad based in Sinai, which has become a hothouse for world terrorism because of the weak control exercised” by Egypt, he added. President Morsi said he had given “clear instructions” that Egypt must take “full control of the Sinai.”
Morsi, who only took the oath of office on June 30 to become Egypt’s first freely elected leader, said those who committed the “cowardly” attack and those who worked with them would pay dearly. The Egyptian leader declared three days of mourning to honour the “martyrs and wounded in the same way as martyrs and wounded of the January 25 revolution” that toppled Mubarak.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed “regret” over the deaths of the Egyptian guards during a visit to the site with Defence Minister Ehud Barak. “I think it is clear that Israel and Egypt have a common interest in keeping the border between us peaceful,” Netanyahu said, adding the attack showed Israel could only rely on itself for its security.
“Nobody can fulfil this role other than the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) and the security services of the State of Israel and this is how we will continue to act.” Barak said the attempt was unlikely to be the last. afp