Sinai group says it was target of Israeli drone
Al-Qaeda affiliated Sinai group claims it was target of alleged Israeli drone strike, says 4 – not 5 – killed, with rocket launching cell's leader managing to flee. Meanwhile, Muslim Brotherhood slams army for allegedly coordinating with Israel prior to attack
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, in a statement posted on a militant website Saturday, said that four of its members were killed in the Friday attack as they were preparing a cross-border rocket strike into Israel.
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"Our heroes became martyrs during their jihadi duties against the Jews in a rocket attack on occupied lands," the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis group said on a jihadist website. It further said the dead were from Egyptian Sinai tribes and that the rocket squad's leader escaped.
Drone (Archive photo: AP)
Egyptian security officials speaking anonymously Friday said that a drone firing from the Israeli side of the border had killed five suspected militants. The conflicting death tolls could not be reconciled.
Israel maintained official silence about the strike, while an Egyptian military spokesman later denied the report but did not provide another cause for the explosion.
Meanwhile, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has published a statement slamming the army, with which it has faced off against in violent clashes since the army deposed Mohammed Morsi from the Egyptian presidency.
Taking a strongly worded jab at the army, Muslim Brotherhood Media Spokesman Dr. Ahmed Aref published a statement saying there was ongoing attempts within the army to redefine 'enemy' in a bid to turn the army's power inwards through the use of propaganda and lies.
Egyptian army forces in Sinai (Photo: Reuters)
Regarding Israel and the alleged attack on ready-to-launch rockets in the Egyptian town of Rafah, Aref said the incident was a breech of Egyptian sovereignty. "Now we hear about the crimes of the Zionist enemy along our borders as well as an infiltration of our borders and the killing of Egyptians, after Israel recognized the new organization in Egypt," he said, hinting at cooperation between the new regime and Israel.
"What happened should prove to every Egyptian that the real enemy is outside of Egypt," he said, calling on the Egyptian army "not to fall into this trap."
One of the representatives of the Justice and Freedom Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, also slammed the alleged Israeli attack, saying: "Can the leaders of the July 3 revolution (in which the army deposed of Morsi) attack terrorist inside of Israeli territory the same way they permit Israel to attack Egyptian on Egyptian soil?" he rhetorically asked.
A pro-Morsi umbrella organization also published a scathing statement regarding the alleged attack, calling it an "act of terror," which "threatens Egypt's national security."
Friday, Egyptian reports which have not received official confirmation claimed that Sinai militant groups decided to launch rockets at Israel, after acquiring various rockets via smuggling routes through the Red Sea.
The AP news agency reported two senior Egyptian defense sources said that the Israeli airstrike was coordinated with the Egyptian authorities. An aircraft fired two rockets toward the target in Rafah, killing five militants and destroying a rocket launching platform, said the AP report.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram quoted the Egyptian army spokesperson who said that on 4:15 pm on Friday two explosions were heard about three kilometers west of the border line. According to him, Egyptian army forces are canvassing the area to find an explanation for the explosions.
An Israel source said in response to the reports: "We're aware of the increase Egyptian army activity against terror in Sinai."
Earlier on Friday Ma'an reported that it was an Egyptian alert of anti-aircraft rockets in Sinai which led to the closure of Eilat's airport for two hours on Thursday.
The news agency reported that according to high ranking Egyptian army officer, Cairo alerted Israel to threats made by Sinai Peninsula-based militant groups to attack Israeli targets with 70 km-ranged rockets.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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