GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A shadowy group claiming ties to al-Qaida said Tuesday that it carried out a deadly cross-border attack in Israel, the strongest evidence to date to back Israeli claims that the global terror network is operating on its doorstep.
While the claim of responsibility, made in a video obtained by The Associated Press in the Gaza Strip, could not be independently verified, it was accompanied by a separate statement with additional details on the attack posted on a website affiliated with al-Qaida.
In Monday's attack, two gunmen infiltrated Israel from Egypt's Sinai desert, killing a civilian worker who was part of a team building a border fence to prevent such attacks. The two gunmen were later killed by Israeli forces.
The short video said the attack was carried out by the Mujahedeen Shura Council of Jerusalem, a murky group that was formed in April.
It identifies two men, one Egyptian and one Saudi, as the perpetrators of Monday's attack. "Soon we will carry out a double suicide mission against the enemy troops on the Egyptian border with occupy Palestine today, Monday, June 18," said the Saudi man.
Later Tuesday, the group issued a statement on an al-Qaida-linked website saying the men targeted an Israeli patrol with a bomb, anti-tank rockets and gunfire. It said the attack was dedicated to "Sheik Mujhahid Osama bin Laden," the al-Qaida founder who was assassinated by U.S. troops last year.
The Israeli military declined comment on the latest claims. Military officials have been warning for more than a year that al-Qaida is operating in the area.
Israeli officials believe the group has taken advantage of the power vacuum in the Sinai since the ouster of longtime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last year.
On Tuesday Israel's military chief, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, toured the area of the infiltration and said his forces are dealing with the situation.
"The more significant issue is what is happening inside Sinai, the dispatch areas, the terror bases that are expanding and growing there. Egypt must exercise its sovereignty in Sinai," he said.
Israeli officials also believe al-Qaida and other "global jihad" elements have infiltrated the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, which lies between Israel and the Sinai.
Hamas denies al-Qaida is operating in Gaza. The two militant groups have far different ideologies. Hamas says its struggle is focused solely against Israel, while al-Qaida claims to be fighting a holy war against the West.
Israel blames Hamas for all violence from Gaza. Following Monday's attack, Israel carried out a series of airstrikes on militant targets in Gaza, drawing retaliatory rocket fire.
Two Palestinian men in Gaza were killed early Tuesday following an airstrike, which Israel said was in response to rocket fire. In all, at least 25 rockets fell on southern Israel Tuesday. Residents in the town of Sderot, next to Gaza, were told to stay close to shelters, and a college there had to cancel its graduation ceremony. There were no reports of injuries on the Israeli side.
Late Tuesday, Gaza health official Adham Abu Salmia said an explosion in a house killed a child and injured 3 others. Continued...