Eight people were killed a series of attacks in Israel’s southern Sinai region on Thursday, prompting Israel to conduct a retaliatory airstrike that killed six Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
According to local Israeli media reports on Thursday night, the head of a terrorist organization was killed in the airstrike.
The attacks began when a civilian bus en route to the tourist city of Eilat was struck midday, wounding 14. In apparently coordinated attacks, militants attacked another bus and two cars. One attack used a roadside bomb that struck an army jeep and killed one soldier.
Six of the victims killed in the attacks were civilians and one was a combat solider, Staff Sgt. Moshe Naftaly, 22, according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The eighth victim was a sniper from an elite counter-terrorism police unit, Pascal Avrahami, 49.
According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the initial attacks were followed by an explosive device that detonated near soldiers who arrived at the scene, causing several injuries. An undisclosed number of mortar shells were also fired from the Gaza Strip at soldiers doing maintenance on the security fence on the Israel-Egypt border.
In a strongly worded response to the attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the day’s events “an attempt to escalate the terrorist war against Israel by launching of attacks from the Sinai.” The Sinai region is the area of the country that borders Egypt.
“I have set out a principle—when the citizens of Israel are attacked, we respond immediately and with strength,” added Netanyahu, noting that his government’s principle was carried out with attacks in Gaza. “Those who gave the order to murder our citizens, while hiding in Gaza, are no longer among the living.”
A travel warning for Israeli citizens to stay away from the Sinai region was issued by the government, while the military vowed to remain vigilant.
The IDF “will continue to operate with all its strength to protect Israel’s citizens and allow for the continuation of normal life in the region,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a statement. The IDF said that the militants were likely from the Gaza region.
In the statement, Barak suggested that more strikes would be on the way if the attacks continue. He said the reason why such an attack, one of the worst attacks in Israel in years, took place is due to a lack of Egyptian military presence on the Sinai Peninsula.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the attack in southern Israel “in the strongest terms,” according to a statement.
“This violence only underscores our strong concerns about the security situation in the Sinai Peninsula,” she said, urging the new Egyptian government “to address the security situation” in the area.
There was no clear response from the Egyptian government immediately following the attacks. However, according to Reuters, an Egyptian army official told the newswire service that during an Israeli raid on militants along the Egypt-Israel border, an Egyptian army officer and two security personnel were killed.