JERUSALEM — Militants infiltrated Israel early on Monday, opening anti-tank fire against Israeli civilians building a security fence along the border with Egypt’s turbulent Sinai Peninsula, the military said. The media reported that one Israeli was killed in the attack.
Israeli radio and TV stations said the victim was one of the workers and that an explosive device was also set off during the attack. Military spokesman Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai did not confirm the Israeli death, though he said there were “limited casualties.” He told Israel Radio that one militant was fatally shot by Israeli troops who arrived at the scene.
He said other militants were believed to be at large and that troops were searching for them. Israelis living in the area were asked to remain inside their communities until the military finished its search, and two major roads in the area were closed to civilian traffic, he said.
The incident underscored the Egyptian government’s increasing loss of control over the Sinai, where political turmoil, weak policing and difficult terrain have encouraged Islamic militant activity.
Israel had been bracing for possible attacks from the area after rockets believed fired from Sinai struck southern Israel over the weekend.
Last August, gunmen from Sinai crossed into Israel and ambushed vehicles on a desert highway, killing eight Israelis. Six Egyptians were killed in Israel’s subsequent hunt for the militants, causing a diplomatic crisis that ended with an Israeli apology.
In response to the growing threat, Israel has increased its surveillance on the Egyptian border and is building an electronic barrier along the 230-kilometer (150-mile) frontier in a bid to keep out both militants and illegal migrants from Africa.