Shadowy al-Qaida-linked group claims Israel attack (AP) Associated Press) IBRAHIM BARZAK GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip 06/19/12 5:03 pm ET)
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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – 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.
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.
Late Tuesday, a rocket hit a house in an Israeli village near Gaza,
police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Rescue services said three
people were hurt.
Three Palestinians were killed in violence Tuesday.
An Islamic Jihad militant told The Associated Press late Tuesday
night that a cease-fire with Israel, mediated by Egypt, was in
effect. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not
authorized to talk to reporters. Israel had no immediate comment.
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
"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.
Two Palestinian men in Gaza were killed early Tuesday in an
airstrike, which Israel said was in response to rocket fire. In all,
at least 45 rockets fell on southern Israel Tuesday, Rosenfeld said.
Late Tuesday, Gaza health official Adham Abu Salmia said an explosion
in a house killed a child and injured 3 others.
Gaza officials initially blamed Israel, but residents there said
apparently a rocket fired by militants at Israel fell short and hit
The flare-up in violence is the most serious in months, and has
threatened an informal cease-fire that has largely held for the past
three years. Hamas, which has mostly stayed out of violence, claimed
responsibility for some of the rocket fire.
In another development Tuesday, vandals torched and scrawled graffiti
on a Palestinian mosque in the West Bank, Israeli security officials
said. Suspicion fell on radical Jewish settlers angry over the
looming demolition of an unsanctioned settler enclave.
By July 1, the government has committed to destroying 30 apartments
built illegally on privately owned Palestinian land. Radical settlers
routinely attack Palestinian targets in retaliation for government
settlement policy they oppose.
The Hebrew-language graffiti spray-painted on the mosque in Kfar
Jabaa read, "Ulpana War" and "Price Tag," the names of the outpost
and the settler retaliation campaign.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack and said
authorities would act swiftly to bring the vandals to justice. "This
is an act of intolerant and irresponsible lawbreakers," he said.
Police said no suspects had been arrested.
Israeli construction on lands the Palestinians claim for a future
state is at the heart of the current peacemaking deadlock. ___
Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this
report. (© 2012 The Associated Press 06/19/12)
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