Sixteen Egyptian soldiers were killed in a terrorist attack in which plotters hijacked Egyptian military vehicles and attempted a cross border assault inside Israel. Hamas and other Gaza terrorist organizations declared that "Israeli agents were behind the attack."
The 15-minute assault began with terrorists breaking into an Egyptian army base and commandeering two armored jeeps. The militants, said to be connected with 'globally affiliated terrorists,' then rammed one explosive-primed vehicle into the Israeli border crossing and drove the other into a firefight with Israeli troops.
Quick action by the Israeli Air Force destroyed the second vehicle, killing several terrorists. Some attackers were said to have escaped to Gaza, where Egyptian troops surrounded the city of Rafah in an effort to apprehend them.
Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi promised that "those who committed this crime will pay for it dearly," and sent fresh troops and helicopter gunships to the border. Hamas, which cheered the rise of the Egyptian Islamist president to power, complained that Egypt's decision to close the Rafah crossing into Gaza amounted to "collective punishment" of Palestinians.
Egyptian officials claimed that the militants came from – and returned to – Gaza. But Hamas was quick to distance itself and to try to blame Israel, with a spokesman saying, "This is a despicable crime that only serves the interests of the Zionist enemy."
"We believe that Israeli agents were behind the attack," he added, calling it an Israeli "attempt to tamper with Egyptian security and drive a wedge between the Egyptians and the residents of the Gaza Strip." The Palestinian Islamic Jihad and al-Jama'ah al-Islamiya [Palestinian division] also blamed Israeli forces.
But many Egyptians living in the Sinai protested Hamas' inaction, taking to the streets to rally against smuggling tunnels, which they claimed were the terrorists' route into Egypt. Egyptian forces have since cracked down on loose security near the tunnels, and have shut Egypt's recently opened border with Gaza.