TEL AVIV (Nov. 26)
The Egyptian authorities seem to be badly shaken by a border guard’s infiltration of Israel on Sunday morning and the fatal shooting spree that followed.
They fear the growing influence of extremists, who could turn their weapons against local officials, Israeli correspondents in Cairo reported Monday.
The lone gunman, captured after he fled back across the Egyptian border, killed three Israeli soldiers and a civilian, and wounded 23 other people as he sniped at Israeli vehicles along a road that parallels the frontier.
He was identified as Mohammed Ayman Husni, 23, from the town of Zigazig. He reportedly is a member of the fundamentalist Islamic Jihad movement.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir charged Monday that the assailant was the product of continuous incitement by extreme Arab nationalist and fundamentalist religious groups active in both Egypt and Jordan.
There have been two fatal infiltrations from Jordan this month. Shamir warned that Israel would not allow this situation to continue, though he did not indicate what Israel might do.
He said, however, that he is convinced there was no official Egyptian involvement in the incidence and that President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is equally opposed to such violence.
Foreign Minister David Levy said there could be no peaceful coexistence in an atmosphere of terrorism.
Israel lodged a stiff protest with Egypt over the infiltration. Levy said Israel demanded that the Egyptians take every possible measure to prevent a repetition of the incident and mete out the harshest punishment to anyone who harms an Israeli.
U.S. SENDS ITS CONDOLENCES
Nevertheless, Israeli political and military leaders stressed that they still regard the border road to be essentially a “road of peace running alongside a frontier maintained peacefully under Israel’s only formal peace treaty” with an Arab state.
Israeli political leaders made clear, though, that they expect the Egyptians to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident and to keep Jerusalem fully informed of the results, including the interrogation of the gunman.
The Israelis pointed out that they have yet to get a report from Cairo on the inquiry into an assault last February on an Israeli tour bus near the Suez Canal port of Ismailia. The attack left nine Israelis and two Egyptians dead.
In Washington, the State Department on Monday condemned Sunday’s “barbaristic and terroristic attack, which resulted in four deaths and many wounded.”
The department’s deputy spokesman, Richard Boucher, expressed “our condolences to those wounded and the families of those killed.”
Noting that the Egyptians are questioning a suspect, Boucher said the United States hopes that “those responsible will be brought to justice expeditiously.”
Meanwhile, the victims of the border ambush were buried in their home towns Monday. The soldiers were identified as Regimental Sgt. Maj. Avi Serlin, Sgt. Maj. Michael Tzubari and Chief Sgt. Chaim Ashkenazi. The civilian was Eliezer Zakoura, an Egged bus driver from Eilat.
All had been driving their vehicles when they came under fire. The Egyptian assailant, who apparently deserted his guard post on the Egyptian side of the border, shot at them from ambush about 300 yards inside Israel. When he slipped back into Egypt, he was apprehended.
(JTA correspondent David Friedman in Washington contributed to this report.)