The incident took place at around 6 a.m., along a section of the Egyptian border, located about 30 km. from the Gaza Strip and not far from the Israeli town of Nitzana. The cell attacked a group of workers involved in constructing the border fence with light gunfire and at least one RPG.
One of the workers was killed and another was injured. A force from the Golani Brigade quickly arrived at the scene, located one of the terrorists and in a short exchange of fire killed him.
Tracks were found at the scene indicating that two to three additional terrorists had also crossed into Israel.
The IDF also closed all roads in the area including Road 12 which was reopened last week after it was closed following the attacks last August.
Monday morning’s attack was the most sophisticated infiltration since the attack last August along the border which killed eight Israelis. Israel has claimed that last year’s attack was orchestrated by the Popular Resistance Committees – a Hamas offshoot based in Gaza – but carried out by Bedouin from the Sinai.
A senior IDF officer said that commanders stationed along the border have ruled out the possibility that a soldier was abducted by the cell but noted that it might have been the cell’s objective. The focus is currently on preventing additional attacks particularly inside Israeli towns in the Negev.
OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Tal Russo was on his way to the scene to oversee the operation and Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz was holding consultations regarding the incident.
Following the attack, the Negev police sub-district deployed large numbers of forces throughout the area. Police shut off a section of Route 211, and set up checkpoints at the junctions of Kamhin and Kadesh Barnea.
The Monday morning attack came on the heels of an Israeli airstrike against a rocket manufacturing plant inside Gaza late Sunday night, and after two Grad-model Katyusha rockets were fired into Israel from the Sinai Peninsula over the weekend.
A senior defense official said Sunday that Israel had not yet confirmed the identity of the terror cell that launched the rockets but said that the IDF was bracing for additional attacks.
“This is a sensitive time for Egypt and we are prepared for the possibility that there will be a further escalation from the Sinai,” a senior defense official said on Sunday.
Nevertheless, a senior IDF officer said Monday that while there was a general high-level of alert along the border there was not specific intelligence about the early-morning infiltration.