TEL AVIV (Nov. 12)
Egyptian authorities seemed anxious to cooperate as Israel prepared to lodge a formal protest with Cairo over the infiltration of four heavily armed men across the Sinai border into the Negev early Monday morning.
The intruders were killed in a brief gun battle with an Israel Defense Force patrol several miles inside Israel. There were no Israeli casualties.
Israel wants to know from Egypt how the gang managed to cross a wide stretch of the Sinai desert undetected although the region is supposed to be heavily patrolled. It wants assurances that measures will be taken to prevent future intrusions.
The Egyptian ambassador in Tel Aviv, Mohammed Basiouny, said Egypt’s policy was to prevent hostile acts against Israel, for tactical, strategic and political reasons.
The Egyptian defense establishment has initiated a thorough investigation of the incident, reports from Cairo said.
Some Egyptian officials were quoted as saying the infiltrators could not have come from Egypt because its side of the frontier is constantly patrolled for reasons of Egyptian security as well as to maintain good relations with Israel.
The bodies of the infiltrators were found with an arsenal of weapons that included five Kalachnikov assault rifles and scores of hand grenades. They also had thousands of dollars in U.S. currency.
Documents found on the bodies indicated their mission was to stage a spectacular “showcase attack” on a heavily populated civilian target.
The IDF so far has not established the gang’s affiliation. The infiltrators crossed the Rafah-Eilat road in the western sector of the Sinai border, which is marked by stone mounds but not protected by a fence.
There have been many illicit border crossings attempted from Egypt in the last three years, most of them by drug smugglers.
Six of the incidents between February 1988 and November 1990 were classified as terrorist operations, in which seven Israelis were killed and 31 injured.