The group responsible for last week's coordinated terrorist attacks in Southern Israel is an alliance of three groups, two operating under the aegis of Hamas, and one with ties to global jihadists, a new report by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) finds.
The Aug. 18 attack near Eilat, which killed eight people and wounded 30, was carried out by the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC). Israel responded by bombing a house in the Gaza town of Rafah, killing five PRC terrorists, including Kamal al-Nairab, head of a PRC faction that collaborates with Hamas and was involved in the June 2006 kidnapping of Israeli Defense Force soldier Gilad Shalit.
"Those who gave the order to murder our citizens, while hiding in Gaza, are no longer among the living," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Gaza-based terror organizations then fired almost 160 rockets, with 120 landing in Israel through Monday. The PRC claimed responsibility for attacks on Beersheba and other cities in southern Israel. Although the group joined Hamas on Monday in accepting a ceasefire, rocket fire into Israeli territory continued.
A branch of the PRC, the Army of Islam, is affiliated with global jihad, the ITIC report says. That organization participated in the Shalit abduction in collaboration with Hamas and has also been responsible for the killings of dozens of Palestinians in Gaza in recent years.
In the wake of Israel's launching of Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, Hamas and the PRC stepped up efforts to have terrorists infiltrate into Israel through the Sinai to reduce the likelihood of Israeli retaliation. Army of Islam operatives were captured in 2009 trying to sneak into Israel through Gaza in order to detonate bombs and kidnap Israeli soldiers, the ITIC report says. In 2010, an IAF airstrike in Gaza foiled an Army of Islam plot to abduct Israelis vacationing in the Sinai.
American counterterrorism officials are investigating whether a new al-Qaida-linked group based in the Sinai may have helped the PRC carry out Eilat attack. The officials told the Washington Times they are investigating whether Salafi-extremists in the Sinai who want to link themselves to al-Qaida may have been behind the attack.