Israel tenses for Gaza strike after deadly Palestinian multiple terror attack
DEBKAfile Special Report August 18, 2011, 7:03 PM (GMT+02:00)
Seven Israelis were killed, including two women, and about 40 injured in shooting attacks on two buses and other vehicles and by the roadside bombing of a military vehicle. UN personnel were quickly evacuated from the Gaza Strip and Egypt locked the Gaza-Sinai crossing as Israel prepared to mete out punishment.
debkafile's military sources estimate that Lebanese Shiite Hizballah experts may have aided the terrorists in setting up the complex operation.
Towards evening, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stated that Israel's response would be "commensurate with the breach of its sovereignty." Defense Minister Ehud Barak said "The source of the terror is Gaza." He did not specify whether he knew the gunmen had in fact reached the scene of the attack from Gaza or elsewhere.
A Hamas spokesman threatened Israel with a sharp reprisal if Gaza were attacked. Terrorist facilities of Hamas and other organizations have reportedly been evacuated and Qassam, Grad and mortar batteries deployed ready for launching.
The IDF estimates that the attackers numbering at least 20 came from the Gaza Strip and took up positions near the Sinai border with Israel to wait for the signal to go ahead.
The Defense Minister, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Ganz, and Military Intelligence Chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi are widely blamed for falling down on precautions for protecting the South although they knew in advance that the Egyptian army was about to embark on a large-scale counter-terror operations in Sinai. Defense ministry sources admitted that they had received a heads-up on a terror attack. It was up to all three to have taken into account that Egypt's Sinai Operation Eagle would be exploited by Palestinian or Al Qaeda terrorists to let loose against Israel. Egypt may suspend its campaign if Israel strikes back against Gaza.
US and Israeli intelligence officials reported Wednesday night, August 17, they were helping the Egyptian Sinai operation by keeping its commander abreast of Palestinian and Al Qaida movements in Sinai.
However, 12 hours later, America which maintains a network of surveillance teams and observation posts across Sinai and Israel intelligence were both shown to be at a loss for real time information on terrorist activities in the peninsula.
A multiple assault by 20 gunmen using automatic guns, RPGs, mortars and roadside bombers could not have been an off-the-cuff operation. It entailed long planning. Its participants had to receive detailed instructions and be brought to the scenes of attack to familiarize themselves with the arena.